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Nevada Lawmakers Mulling New Law in Red Rock Property Battle

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A builder’s plan for luxury homes on a hilltop within view of scenic Red Rock National Conservation Area outside Las Vegas is spurring state lawmakers to again try to craft a law to block the development.

Democratic State Assemblyman Steve Yeager told a legislative committee Friday that the proposal to restrict use of properties outside public lands in Nevada is broader than a 2003 state law that was struck by the Nevada Supreme Court down as unconstitutionally narrow.

That law focused on restricting uses of land owned by builder Jim Rhodes across a state highway from Red Rock, about 20 miles west of the Las Vegas Strip. The area is a popular hiking, biking and rock-climbing area that drew 2.2 million visitors last year.

“This law solves the constitutional issue,” Yeager said after dozens of people turned out in Las Vegas for a 2½-hour hearing conducted by closed-circuit with lawmakers also in Carson City.

The 2003 law was too specific, Yeager said, while Assembly Bill 277 would apply to the entire state.

Ron Krater, a Rhodes representative at the hearing, called the proposed new law “extremely similar to the original law,” overbroad in its reach and unfair because it would prevent Clark County lawmakers from regulating major projects in their jurisdiction.

“Beyond our property, it seems to me it would affect property owners with hundreds of thousands of acres,” Krater said. “It is our viewpoint that those folks should be allowed to weigh in.”

The proposed bill would freeze zoning within 5 miles (8 kilometers) around the Red Rock and Sloan Canyon conservation areas in southern Nevada and the Black Rock Conservation Area, home to the annual Burning Man Festival in the north.

It also would widen protection around Red Rock and the adjacent Spring Mountains National Recreation Area.

The measure has bipartisan support from more than 30 of the 63 lawmakers in Carson City, and vocal backing from conservation and recreation enthusiasts.

Many want to kill Rhodes’ plan to build homes, schools and stores on more than 3 square miles of what is now a gypsum mine on Blue Diamond Hill.

“It’s a good idea to have a buffer zone,” said Paul Papa, an avid mountain biker and off-road guide author. “Forty million people come to Las Vegas every year, and more of them than people realize are here for the recreational areas.”

Papa described hilltop paths on Rhodes’ property, dubbed “cowboy trails,” as among the most challenging in the region.

Rhodes maintains that he has zoning approval to build as many as 5,000 homes on land now being mined for gypsum, a powdery mineral widely used to produce drywall for homes.

A state court judge in Las Vegas is due May 2 to hear the dispute involving the county, an organization called Save Red Rock and Rhodes’ company.

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