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Rod Smith

Venetian Gets Go-Ahead for Employee Lot

9 September 2004

LAS VEGAS -- The Clark County Commission on Wednesday gave The Venetian the go-ahead to build a temporary remote employee parking lot but extended its role in a long-simmering dispute between Venetian owner Sheldon Adelson and Steve Wynn.

After a long debate between high-powered attorneys representing Adelson and Wynn, who is developing a megaresort across Sands Drive, the commission finally wrapped up its morning agenda late Wednesday by approving 5-0 with one abstention the remote parking lot.

The added parking lot for worker overflow is on a 9.2-acre site owned by Spring Mountain Wynn Investments, a partnership that does not include Wynn, between Valley View Boulevard and Wynn Road at Spring Mountain Road.

The owner plans to develop a mixed-use condominium project on the site, but the land is available indefinitely for off-site parking.

The approval was limited and conditional, however, but did little to resolve the parking dispute between the two Strip giants and what is fast becoming one of Las Vegas' longest-running soap operas.

Former Sen. Richard Bryan, who represented The Venetian, said he had expected the session to grant final approval for his client's plans to provide enough employee parking as well as plans to ensure that Venetian employees were not using other companies' facilities.

The commission in July gave The Venetian limited authority to proceed with its expansion plans despite concerns that construction of the additional parking will interfere with Steve Wynn's newest landmark, the $2.4 billion Wynn Las Vegas.

However, Frank Schreck, a partner in Schreck Brignone Godfrey who represented Wynn, and the commission expressed continued concerns about the procedures established by The Venetian to make sure its employees' parking did not interfere with operations at neighboring hotel-casinos or Wynn's development.

Fred Kraus, general counsel of The Venetian, said a survey of neighbors showed none had any concerns that Venetian employees were using their garages and that Harrah's Entertainment had withdrawn an earlier complaint.

However, Schreck, a prominent gaming attorney, said the real problem lies with patrons at The Venetian and the Sands Expo and Convention Center, an adjacent sister operation also owned by Adelson.

While County Commissioner Bruce Woodbury said it eluded him why a hotel-casino operator would object to more visitors using their parking, other commissioners insisted that the legal teams return in a month with a revised parking compliance plan that includes review by an independent auditor to be selected by the county.

Two of the problems with the monitoring plan The Venetian set up were that the resort selected and retained the auditor and only employee parking was policed.

Schreck said Wynn's objection is that Adelson's $1.6 billion Palazzo, to be built adjacent to The Venetian, is seriously delayed and the parking problems he believes it will create will damage operations at Wynn Las Vegas once it opens in April.

Bryan said the concern was ironic because the additional parking is essential for construction workers who need to be hired to build the parking structure that will permanently solve the problem.

However, he said Schreck's objections could delay construction of the underground parking garage and thus create the problems Schreck said Wynn wants to avoid.

By comparison, Bryan said The Venetian wants to proceed full-speed ahead with its new project since excavation work is already under way, financing is in place, and the clock is already ticking so the delays will only increase costs. Wynn was traveling overseas and was not available for comment.