The Silent Treatment

Union Village—the $1.5 billion mixed-use “health-care village” proposed for the northeast corner of U.S. 95 and Galleria Drive—is quietly moving closer to development. The city of Henderson recently requested to change its five-year-old land-use plan and zoning to make way for the project. The ideal is to have public input on such requests, but when the changes were approved at a July 5 hearing, nobody from the public said a word.

Union Village is a massive enterprise. It would include residential, office, entertainment and cultural amenities—including 300,000 square feet of retail space—all surrounding a new St. Rose Dominican Hospital. The old hospital, on Water Street and Lake Mead Parkway in downtown Henderson, would be closed. One would expect such a game-changing project to stoke interest. How to account for the silence? Scheduling the hearing on the day after Independence Day probably didn’t help. But it’s also likely the notifications of the hearing took a direct route to people’s recycling bins after they saw the thick planning jargon. Plus, the city, not the developer, was the applicant for these requests, perhaps giving the project an air of inevitability.

The changes allow for a “planned community” on the proposed site, which is currently zoned for regional mixed-use. The Planned Community Zone, which is primarily used for parcels three times this size, is the most flexible zoning category available in Henderson; it’s basically a wild card that allows developers to build anything the City Council deems worthy.

By securing these entitlements for the developers, the city is not only saving them time and money, but they’re also giving them peace of mind. Once the zoning is established for a property, the rest is just a question of design. Also, it’s a lot easier for a municipality to ask for a zone change than for an out-of town developer to do the same. And it’s less alarming to the public.

The final opportunity for the public to ask questions and comment about the zone change is July 19, when the City Council will discuss and most likely adopt the ordinance finalizing its approval.

The land is owned by the city and was to be sold off in pieces until developers offered to buy the 150-acre site for $11.6 million. It’s hard to pass up that kind of money. As part of the deal, the city is conducting the first phase of mass grading for the site, and it will surely continue to nurse this project throughout its infancy.