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Cy Ryan

Court Rejects Appeal of Stratosphere Ride Case

3 September 2004

CARSON CITY, Nevada -- The Nevada Supreme Court today rejected the appeal of the Stratosphere Resort & Casino to develop a roller-coaster-type thrill ride at its property in Las Vegas.

The court upheld the decision of District Judge Valorie Vega, who had ruled in favor of the City Council that denied the application of Stratosphere to construct a steel structure rising 510 feet on the east side of the Stratosphere tower.

Stratosphere appealed to the Supreme Court on grounds the City Council abused its discretion in its 6-0 vote against the ride. And the company said it had a right to build the proposed ride because the council had previously approved an application to build another ride on the same property.

The Supreme Court said the Las Vegas city ordinance provides the council must approve the development on the property.

"That process requires the council to consider a number of factors and to exercise its discretion in reaching a decision," said the court in a decision signed by Chief Justice Miriam Shearing and Justices Bob Rose and Bill Maupin.

"There is no evidence that the Stratosphere had a vested right to construct the proposed ride," said the decision.

The court said the city ordinance requires that a development plan must be reviewed to ensure it "is harmonious and compatible with development in the area" and that it is not "unsightly, undesirable or obnoxious in appearance."

Stratosphere representatives declined comment this morning, saying they hadn't yet reviewed the decision.

At the public hearing before the City Council, there were 175 protests against the ride and 671 in favor. Those opposed said it would be too close to the residential area and generate increased traffic and noise. The hotel-casino offered four experts to rebut the oppositions' concern.

The Supreme Court said it cannot substitute its judgment for that of the City Council. "We conclude that the kind of concerns expressed by the individuals and businesses opposed to the proposed ride are substantial and specific."

It said those concerns "establish a valid basis for the City Council's decision to reject the Stratosphere's site development plan."

The ride calls for a passenger car ascending 510 feet and then a free-fall of 204 feet, reaching a maximum speed of 93 miles per hour. The passenger car would then ascend a 325-foot tower that would be built on the Stratosphere's property across from its tower.

The city's Planning Commission deadlocked 2-2 on whether to approve the application and forwarded it to the council. At the Planning Commission public meeting, there were 670 protests and 78 in favor. At the hearing, 95 persons appeared in support and 78 individuals testified against the ride.

The court, in its opinion, quoted Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, who said at the public hearing that he wanted to revitalize downtown and an important element was to have people move back into a neighborhood which is maturing and decaying.

Goodman said these people feel this project would destroy their quality of life and therefore he supports the neighbors against the Stratosphere.

By contrast, residents showed little opposition to another thrill ride at the Stratosphere. The X Scream ride, approved and built last year, is a teeter-totter device that flips passengers over the edge of the building's observation desk and back again. The ride is quieter than the proposed roller coaster ride, which would have come closer to the Strip. And Stratosphere officials said they had greater communication with residents from the outset when they set out to build the teeter-totter ride as compared to the roller coaster project.