A Muth’s Truths Special Report
(Chuck Muth) – In Part I of “The Justin Jones Affair” I laid out the background on the war between developer Jim Rhodes and loud-mouthed opponents to his master-planned community on privately-owned land near the Red Rock National Conservation Area.
At the end of the first part, I noted that legislative efforts to block the project were scuttled by the courts in 2010. This led to a settlement agreement that then-Commissioner Susan Brager – who represented the district where the project was to be built – brought to the Clark County Commission for approval.
The agreement stipulated that the county would process Rhodes’ application in “good faith.” The agreement was ultimately approved, with then-Commissioner Steve Sisolak, now governor, voting in favor. To be sure, the agreement didn’t require the county to approve the project itself; only to consider it in good faith.
Yeah, good luck with that when dealing with politicians.
In early 2011, Rhodes submitted his application. The commission considered it in August. The wackadoodle Red Rockers & Rhodes Blockers came out of the woodwork and burped up a new excuse to kill the project.
In order to get to Rhodes’ planned community from State Highway 159 – the Charleston Blvd. extension that leads to the Red Rock Canyon area – an access road would need to be built with permission from the BLM (Bureau of Land Management).
And the wackadoodles demanded that Rhodes get that permission from the feds BEFORE having his application considered.
This, of course, makes no sense. Despite the fact that the BLM regularly approves such access roads, you can’t submit an application until you know exactly what the project is going to be so you know exactly what kind of road is going to be required.
It’s one of those chicken and egg things.
In addition, Rhodes’ plan wasn’t to place the main entrance to the new development off Route 159. Instead, the main entrance was to be built miles away – far from the Red Rock Canyon entrance and to the east of the project near another of his already-built master-planned communities, Rhodes Ranch.
The road permit requirement was nothing but a desperate red herring designed to block the project. It failed…sort of.
Over boisterous opposition, the Commission approved Rhodes’ initial concept plan. However, as Daniel Rothberg of the Nevada Independent reported recently, the county added “a checklist of requirements” that Rhodes would have to fulfill for final approval, including the Red Rockers & Rhodes Blockers’ requirement that he first “obtain a permit from the Bureau of Land Management for an access road.”
As Todd Bice, one of Rhodes’ attorneys, noted, the road access language “came up at the public meeting at the last possible minute after being planted by Chris Guinchigliani, the commissioner who was looking for a way to torpedo the project.”
So the project was put back on ice. “Good faith”? I don’t think so.
In an effort to resolve the matter and find a solution that would make all parties happy, uber-lobbyist Jay Brown, working for Rhodes, said he discussed with then-U.S. Sen. Harry Reid the possibility of swapping Rhodes’ privately-owned land near Red Rock with other land owned by the BLM on which Rhodes’ could build.
However, as Rothberg reports, “the proposed land deal ultimately failed when the U.S. Bureau of Land Management said it would not acquire the land because it had been so degraded from mining.”
As the Las Vegas Review-Journal noted in a 2018 editorial, “the land in question is hardly ‘environmentally sensitive.’ The BLM didn’t even want it when the property was offered up for a potential land swap.”
That’s right. The land the Red Rockers and Rhodes Blockers are so desperately trying to preserve to “protect the character of the area” and save as a “sensitive ecosystem” isn’t even good enough for the BLM!
Fast-forward to April 2019. Rhodes is still trying to turn this mine-scarred piece of broken rocks into a fully-landscaped, professionally developed, beautiful housing development. And in order to move forward, all he needed was for the county to waive the poison-pill road permit requirement.
But the County Commission unanimously told him to pound sand.
Three months later, they got what they wanted. Rhodes was forced to put the project, Gypsum Resources LLC, into bankruptcy.
But you know the old saying about being careful what you wish for. And if the commissioners thought this would make Jim Rhodes go away, they obviously don’t know Jim Rhodes.
He turned around and sued them. Again.
“Gypsum’s lawyers,” Rothberg reports, “allege that, through years of delays and unfair dealing, the county deprived it of its property rights, drove the project into bankruptcy and effectively took Rhodes’ land without just compensation. Gypsum claims it is due more than $1 billion for the alleged loss of property rights – and it wants the county to pay.
Uh-oh. Shades of Badlands!
But the claim of “unfair dealing” goes a LOT deeper than pussy-footing around on a federal road permit waiver. And I’ll get into “The Illicit Deal” starring goober County Commissioner Justin “Red Rocker” Jones in Part III.
Stay tuned, Batfans.
FAMOUS LAST WORDS
“A funny thing happened after Democrat Justin Jones was elected to the Clark County Commission on Tuesday. Two days later, an environmental group that for years has been battling a proposed housing development on Blue Diamond Hill overlooking Red Rock Canyon dropped its lawsuit against the project. … Is it just a coincidence that Mr. Jones happens to be the attorney representing Save Red Rock?” – Las Vegas Review-Journal, 11/10/18
Mr. Muth is president of Citizen Outreach, publisher of Nevada News & Views and blogs at MuthsTruths.com. His views are his own.