Developer Jim Rhodes has been doing everything money can buy to build a massive housing community on the hill in the middle of the Red Rock Canyon Scenic Byway (159). Up until this point, he had won several battles, including some of the major legal hurdles. Now it appears that the grassroots efforts of people interested in preserving Red Rock for their enjoyment now and for future generations, have achieved a major victory.
The developer withdrew his request for waivers from the county to use the Red Rock Scenic Byway (state Route 159) during construction. He also withdrew his request for the County Commission to file an application to the Bureau of Land Management for a land swap Rhodes needs to build a road to the development site.
Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani, one of the few commissioners to stand up to Rhodes and vote against the settlement agreement, said Rhodes got the message that there is no public support for this:
“They realized there wasn’t support to grant their waivers. The community pressure, the Killers letter helped, the bike advocates the conservation people really sent a message.”
Rhodes likely figured out that the County Commissioners themselves were not going to go along anymore. This is what happens when people give our politicians the support they need. They can’t always stand up to powerful money influences unless they can demonstrate the political power of people behind them.
Without these waivers, construction of this project gets much more difficult and drawn out. Rhodes will have to convince the BLM to do the land swap on his own, and that could take at least 18 months. He’ll have to build his road UP the hill instead of down, a more difficult task. I guess it’s an uphill battle for Rhodes (lame).
By the time Rhodes get’s all this extra stuff squared away, we may have some sort of decision from the Ninth Circuit Court hopefully reversing the decision of the lower Court that invalidated the Nevada state law which initially put a halt to this project.
An important player in all this is the group “Save Red Rock.” Check out their website, it has great information, a sign-up form, etc. Their president, Heather Fisher, describes their non-partisan position on this issue:
This development is a nice proposal, just in the wrong area. The developer should do what all the other land owners in the area that’s always been rural and just accept that that’s what he bought. He could even build a little village or two like Calico Basin, (or even up to 20) per his property rights and nobody’s fighting that. A nice country lane, one house per two acres on only the pieces of land he owns. But that’s not good enough for him. He wants more rights than anybody else. He wants to turn the mountain into a city, blast a 4-6 lane highway up to it, water, sewer, construction traffic, a university, inner city style mixed use buildings, condos, businesses and shops. That is not what he is legally allowed and does not conform with the rural character of the canyon. That is what he’s trying to get the county to do for him. His concept plan calls for 45,000 car trips a day to the site. That’s not quiet or dark or sustainable. What’s sustainable is taking care of empty lands in the city or empty houses, or at least building next to the city and keeping Red Rock a rural, quiet escape for everyone.
The war is not over, but this might have been the battle of Gettysburg for the Save Red Rock movement. I am particularly proud that people who aren’t typically politically involved found out what kind of power they possess. I will end with this message. People expect politicians to change things, and then get mad when they don’t (like President Obama for example). If anything, this victory demonstrates how politicians are only as powerful as the people behind them. Otherwise the Golden Rule applies: He/She who has the gold, rules.
At the end of the day, if we want to see real political change in this country, we need people to stand up like they did for Red Rock, but for other issues as well.
Justin is the publisher The Nevada View, which has earned the recognition in the Washington Post’s “Best State-Based Political Blogs,” as well as being awarded the “Most Valuable Blogger Award” by the local CBS affiliate in 2011. Follow him on Twitter @McAffee