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Adrienne Packer

Tale Of Two Stations: Casino Projects Handled Differently

2 January 2004

LAS VEGAS -- Opponents of Station Casinos' proposed resort in Summerlin base part of their argument against the proposed 300-foot tower on the way another of the gaming company's casinos in Henderson took shape.

The hotel tower at Green Valley Ranch was whittled down from a proposed 250-feet to just 80 feet, and homeowners are asking why Station Casinos can't make similar accommodations for concerned Summerlin residents.

Aside from the heights of their respective towers, the projects have other significant differences, particularly in the way two government agencies handled each proposal.

For instance, Henderson city planners attended all meetings scheduled between residents and the developer of Green Valley Ranch. County planners have not been involved in discussions between Summerlin homeowners and Station executives.

Summerlin residents and Station representatives headed back into negotiations last month after Clark County commissioners asked the two sides to compromise on the height of the Red Rock Station hotel tower.

Once again, the county did not send a representative. After a three-hour meeting, each side conceded 30 feet.

"We're put in a bind," said Chuck Arkell, a homeowner who participated in the meeting. "We're up against $10 billion worth of corporation in Howard Hughes and Station, but that's what we've been told to do."

Arkell said residents have repeatedly asked for a county planner or commissioner to be present during discussions with Station.

"We need to have another meeting, but we need to have somebody there because they're not taking us seriously," Arkell said.

Residents are likely to get their wish. Barbara Ginoulias, assistant director of current planning, said a staff member will attend a meeting Monday between Station and the homeowners.

"Typically, the commission has frequently sent the applicant back to work issues out with neighbors," Ginoulias said. "We received a request from the manager's office to send someone. That may be the direction commissioners want us to go from now on."

Several years ago, Green Valley homeowners were in a similar position, battling a proposed 250-foot-high tower at Green Valley Ranch.

But unlike the county process, Henderson city officials held more than a dozen meetings between residents and the developer, America Nevada Corp. A city planner assigned to the project participated in each meeting.

"We wanted to ensure that everyone was being heard," said Henderson senior planner David Norris.

"I honestly don't remember any dissent because we involved everybody and people's concerns were listened to," he said.

The planning process involved two stages: approval of the project's scope and approval of the design.

America Nevada, which developed the community of Green Valley, owned the property and was involved in discussions with residents about the size of the resort. Although no height restrictions were placed on the project, company representatives ultimately agreed to what residents wanted, heights that ranged from 50 feet to 80 feet.

Once the scope was approved by the city, Station Casinos' architects designed the project accordingly.

But Station owned the hotel-casino site in Summerlin when the idea for the Red Rock project was initiated. Although the property had entitlements that allowed for a maximum 100-foot-tall hotel tower, Station is seeking county approval to go ahead with the 300-foot design.

In haggling with residents, Station representatives have repeatedly noted the expense and time attached with redesigning such a large-scale project.

But Lesley Pittman, spokeswoman for Station, emphasizes that property surrounding each project is vastly different.

The proposed Red Rock Station site and Green Valley Ranch are both on the edge of the Las Vegas Beltway. But property surrounding the Red Rock land has been developed as commercial. Station's land is at the core of a new downtown planned by Howard Hughes Corporation, which developed Summerlin.

Directly across the street from the proposed Red Rock casino is property designated for 250-foot-tall office buildings that were approved by commissioners in 1999. Station wants a 300-foot-high tower to allow guests a view over the office buildings. It's plan calls for a top-floor restaurant and observation deck.

So while the Red Rock project ultimately would be located in an area with skyscrapers, the Green Valley Ranch casino is surrounded by office buildings that are less distinct, rising about three stories.

Homes are located within 500 feet of Green Valley Ranch; they're at least a half-mile away from the Red Rock casino site.

"It's totally different," Pittman said. "There are plans for a regional mall (next to Red Rock) and there will be 42 million square feet of com- mercial."

Pittman said Station has made multiple sacrifices in an attempt to appease Summerlin residents. For example, it's bringing in sound experts to ensure noise from the resort's amphitheater does not bleed over into nearby neighbor- hoods.

Casino representatives have also softened the lighting, agreed to build a landscaped berm around the property and told residents they will not use mirrored glass seen on such resorts as Mandalay Bay and the Suncoast.

"We've responded to every one of their concerns and compromised on every one of their concerns," Pittman said. "We can't seem to make it work; it's frustrating."