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February 11, 2003
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ARCHIVE: Master Plans

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Master Plans are rules which determine what is suitable to build in neighborhoods and everywhere else in the county. For instance, Master Plans around the county say industrial plants shouldn't be built in neighborhoods or houses shouldn't be built under flight paths, and they determine housing density in an area. Starting today, Clark County Commissioners are presenting a proposal they say will strengthen the counties Master Plan. KNPR's Ky Plaskon has this report.

Master Plans are detailed, thought out documents meant to avoid haphazard development. Developers on the other hand request changes to Master Plans to maximize profits in a fast growing community. County commissioners say they are increasingly besieged by requests to change the master plan. It approved changes four times last year and already once this year. Last year it approved a change to build houses under a flight path. But, at the same time, newly-elected members of the commission were coming on board. Commissioner Bruce Woodbury managed to have the change re-considered and dropped by the new commission. He says its time to defend the Master Plan.

"I think we need to hold the line. There are some areas that are just not suitable for residential development and despite the financial pressure, we have to make sure the quality of life in the community comes first."

So he and other commissioners started to work on a proposal to strengthen the master plan. Now that proposal is out and commissioners are trying to sell it to the community this week.

Currently the commission can receive developer requests to change and waive parts of the master plan every day. Under the new proposal the master plan must remain unchanged for two years and some waivers will not be considered. After two years, the commission can consider changes only once a year until the plan is finally changed - then they start all over again, waiting two years. Under the proposal, master plan changes would also require a super majority vote of the Commission, that's 5 of the 7 members.

The super majority idea is questionable to new Commissioner Mark James, former member of the Nevada Legislature. He didn't work on the proposal but supports a general strengthening of the Master Plan. He says its too easy for developers to change right now and everyone knows it.

"If we are talking about this ordinance we are saying that is done too much, we are spending too much time changing and re-zoning properties doing zone changes that are not in conformity with the master plan. It is about making the process more firm and more predictable for people."

The Southern Nevada Home Builders Association has not commented on the proposal, but officials there expect some kind of public comment over the next week. Though the plan does make it tougher for builders to change the master plan it also allows them to state their case in reports describing how their requested change will or won't affect a community. James says that's appropriate.

"If the person that wants to develop the property on a for profit basis then it is fully appropriate for them to shoulder at least part of the cost of providing that analysis to the county."

He says that county staff will analyze Developers reports and proposals as well as do their own analysis. However, commissioners may disregard negative staff analysis in exchange for Developer's as it did when it approved housing under the flight paths last year. James says balance between developers and the public interest is key for healthy growth of the county.

"You are going to have some people that are trying to protect neighborhoods that say it is not strong enough and on the other side you are going to have some developers that say that if you pass this we are going to have to leave town and we will achieve a balance somewhere in the middle."

With James on board, the ordinance has a majority support on the commission. But before a vote for or against the ordinance can take place, County staff are asking for intense public and developer comment on this proposal. It may be subsequently amended. The county is presenting the proposal to town boards starting this evening through Thursday.

For KNPR, I'm Ky Plaskon

For meeting dates and times regarding changes to the master plan, go to the Clark County web site or call 455-2794.

See discussion rules.

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