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Jeremy Twitchell
 

Henderson approves apartments for casino workers

17 September 2008

HENDERSON, Nevada -- A controversial apartment complex proposed south of Fiesta Henderson will be built, but with fewer units than the developers wanted.

The Henderson City Council unanimously voted on Tuesday to approve 252 units for the complex. Land owner Station Casinos and developer Trammell Crow Co. had requested 380 apartments on 10.5 vacant acres south of the Fiesta Henderson, at Lake Mead Parkway and U.S. 95, to provide housing for Station employees.

Residents of neighborhoods south and east of the parcel had opposed the proposal, arguing that it was too dense and that it would increase traffic and crime in the area while decreasing property values.

The Henderson Planning Commission, which reviewed the project last month, had granted a conditional use permit to allow an apartment complex on the site and recommended it be approved for 380 units on the condition that Station and Trammell Crow guaranteed the project would be workforce housing and that it give Station employees the first right to live there.

The Planning Commission has the final say on use permits, so the question for the council was not whether apartments would be built, but how many.

"Our hands are somewhat tied on this," Councilman Andy Hafen said.

Attorneys for Station and Trammell Crow argued that the Planning Commission's decision gave them the right to build 380 units as long as they complied with the workforce housing condition, but Mayor James B. Gibson disagreed.

"It's going to be impossible to convince me that anything more than the lower density should be granted," he said.

Gibson then asked attorneys to talk with Station and Trammell Crow, who had representatives present, and ask them to accept the city's standard apartment zoning of 24 units per acre to avoid having the matter go to court.

After talking it over with representatives of the two companies, attorney Tom Amick consented.

"(Station and Trammell Crow) believe in this project," Amick said. "They believe in the value of this project and in the value it will bring to Station employees. They don't want it to go away simply because we can't get the 38 units (per acre)."

The City Council added the conditions that the complex be gated and that developers work out a workforce housing guarantee approved by Henderson City Attorney Shauna Hughes.

The council's unanimous approval elicited cheers from 42 Station Casinos employees in the audience who favored the project and accepting nods from some who had opposed it. Some residents and City Council members made the case that an apartment complex is probably the best project that could be hoped for on the site, which is bordered by a casino, a freeway, a railroad line and a residential neighborhood.

Station already had the right to expand the Fiesta Henderson into the lot because of its Tourist Commercial zoning, council members said.

"I think that the expansion of the casino back into that neighborhood would be far more detrimental to the neighborhood than multi-family housing," Councilman Jack Clark said.

Ten residents from the surrounding neighborhoods spoke against the proposal, and when the last asked for a show of hands from the audience from those who opposed it, a few dozen hands went up.

"We have a master-planned community," resident Gene Emelko said. "To override that plan for the economic benefit of a land owner is simply not right. Constructing high-density apartments is not consistent with the character of the neighborhood."

When attorneys asked for those who were in favor of the project to raise their hands, the number was close to the number of those who opposed it, but neighbors pointed out that all but a small handful of those who favored it didn't live in the neighborhood.

One Fiesta Henderson employee who identified himself as a UNLV student said neighbors in the area would be happy to live next to the kind of people who work at the casino, and said such a project is long overdue.

"We look for affordable housing for teachers, for firefighters and police, but what about the ones who built this city – the hospitality industry?" he said. "We're being priced out this valley, but we're the backbone of its economy."

Henderson approves apartments for casino workers is republished from Online.CasinoCity.com.