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Developer Proposes City Next To Red Rock Canyon

Aerial view of the proposed site. [Photo] Rhodes Plan

In 2003 Nevada’s Clark County Commission enacted a zoning ordinance for land near Red Rock Canyon. (For more information on the climbing history of Red Rock Canyon check out the Mountain Profile in Alpinist 28.) The new zoning law was mirrored by the state and would have limited the density of development in the area to one house every two acres. This change came in the wake of a proposed 5,500 unit development project on Blue Diamond Hill by developer Jim Rhodes. Rhodes sued the county and the state alleging that the local governments had “violated equal protection, procedural and substantive due process and constituted a taking of … property without the payment of just compensation.”

After a Federal Judge struck down the state law, the Clark County Commission and Rhodes negotiated a settlement whereby the county ordinance would stand, but Rhodes would be given the right to submit “Major Project Applications” for projects at least seven hundred acres in size.

Rhodes has exercised that right and submitted a major project application to develop 7,000 housing units as well as light industry, businesses and a college on the abandoned mine at Blue Diamond Hill. It’s estimated that some 22,000 people would be housed in the completed project. The current population of Blue Diamond is 250. Rhodes’ project manager Don Purdue told Las Vegas City Life “Look at this … think about walking out into your courtyard in the morning, you know, with your coffee, and seeing this… It has to be [developed]. It just does….”

While Purdue describes the amazing view from Blue Diamond Hill, locals and users of Red Rock Canyon are very concerned about what an additional 7,000 multi family homes, industry and associated infrastructure would do to the view from Red Rock Canyon. The GRCP did complete a viewshed analysis of their plan, but do not seem to account for the plans impact on people climbing or hiking on the RRCNCA’s formations, instead their analysis appears to have focused on the impact on motorists driving through the area. Their, (the GRCP) filing states, “The purpose of the viewshed analysis is to identify lands within the study area that are visible from various locations along SR 159 and along the Red Rock Canyon Scenic Loop within the RRCNCA [Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area].” Meanwhile, the Access Fund notes, “The proposed location, Blue Diamond Hill, is clearly visible from all major formations at Red Rock Canyon.”

Phil Broscovak, who wrote about the first ascent of Resolution Arete in Alpinist 28’s Red Rock profile, described the proposed development as, “a mess.” Broscovak also questioned the need to develop the area. As of January, 2011, one out of every nine houses in Las Vegas faced foreclosure, and in 2010 a seventh of Nevada’s total housing stood empty. Broscovak also theorized about the potential impact on the RRCNCA, saying the development could, “turn the park into a gated community.” He fears that increased development will lead to “draconian measures” from RRCNCA staff, as they try to maintain the wilderness experience.

Albert Newman described the impact of the proposed development to Alpinist more vividly saying, “It would turn Red Rock into an outdoor climbing gym.”

The Clark County Commission meets on August 17th at 9:00 am to vote on the development plan and the Access Fund is encouraging climbers to make their voices heard. “The most important things climbers can do are submit comments opposing the plan and attend the meeting on August 17th at the Clark County Government Center, Commission Chambers, 500 S. Grand Central Parkway, Las Vegas, NV 89155 (702-455-4431). Let the commissioners know how important it is to preserve the rural nature of Red Rock Canyon.”

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Sources: Phil Broscovak, Andrew Newman, Las Vegas City Life,, CNN Money, Huffington Post, Save Red Rock, Las Vegas Review Journal, Rhodes Plan At this time Alpinist has been unable to contact Jim Rhodes for comment.