Red Rock Canyon Photo by Danielle Kwasniowski

Red Rock Rant

Untangling the February 22 County Commission meeting.

There were a lot of expectations leading up to the county commission meeting at 9 a.m. on February 22—the greatest being that the county would side with Save Red Rock, an organization dedicated to keeping the National Conservation Area rural, and block developer Jim Rhodes and Gypsum Resources from continuing with plans to build 5,025 homes at nearby Blue Diamond Hill. More importantly, there was an expectation that Gypsum’s 2011 concept plan would not come up in the meeting, because many people thought it had expired.

The meeting lasted six and a half hours, with more than 100 people voicing how important it was that Red Rock remain rural. But during final procedures, the county’s attorney, Robert Warhola, brought out a receipt of Gypsum’s payment to file its 2011 concept plan. The final decision came down to whether the commission should allow Gypsum to withdraw its 2016 plan and continue with the approved 2011 plan instead.

People had stayed all day to participate in the public process and—in the words of SRR attorney Justin Jones in an interview with KNPR—“in the eleventh hour,” the meeting took an unexpected turn back to the 2011 plan. Even commission chair Steve Sisolak, who ultimately voted yes to Gypsum’s motion to withdraw its 2016 concept plan, asked during the meeting why they were even talking about the 2016 plan.

Jones and other SRR supporters see the February 22 meeting as an attempt to make it appear as though the matter is outside of the county commission’s control—as though they have no power to block the 2011 plan from continuing. Furthermore, based on commissioner Chris Giunchigliani’s comments at the meeting that she was not entirely sure the 2011 plan had not expired, the county commission did not seem to be all on the same page in regard to whether the 2011 plan was still valid.

Clark County spokesman Dan Kulin maintains that, contrary to increasingly popular belief, the county has not purposely withheld information regarding the status of the 2011 plan. “The attorney for the county had been consistent in advising that the 2011 concept plan did not expire. He made this point in the December filing with the court and during a subsequent court hearing, both of which were covered by the media. He also reiterated this point during the public hearing,” said Kulin, adding that Clark County’s court records are available for public inquiry on their website.

Putting aside speculations, the only way the commissioners can show Red Rock supporters that they are listening is with their votes. Five of the commissioners voted yes to allow Gypsum to withdraw its 2016 plan and proceed with its 2011 plan. Commissioners Giunchigliani and Lawrence Weekly voted no.

In a February 24 interview with KNPR, one caller confronted commissioner Sisolak about why he didn’t block the 2011 plan. Throughout the interview, Sisolak reiterated the fact that any court would recognize Gypsum Developers’ legal property right to build 1,100–1,200 homes at Blue Diamond Hill. “The question is, what more, over and above that can be built?” Sisolak said. So essentially, anyone hoping for zero building at Blue Diamond Hill has had their head in the clouds this whole time.

Desert Companion writer Heidi Kyser commented in the same KNPR interview, “I believe that one thing that could better allay the public’s fears and confusion would be better transparency on the part of the county. … There’s no public statement by the county. We haven’t seen these documents. … I had to request a lot of paperwork that I haven’t seen yet to try to help me understand, as a reporter, what happened. How did this 2011 plan that we all thought was expired suddenly become active again?”

How can we influence the commissioners’ votes if we don’t even understand what they are voting on? Although everyone wants a definitive decision, Red Rock’s future is not set in stone. Gypsum Developers must continue with the number of houses, kinds of amenities, etc. with the county’s approval. Hopefully, next time, we all can be on the same page before sitting through a six-and-a-half-hour meeting.