Updated October 11, 2022 - 10:19 am
A carpenter by trade, developer James Rhodes says he never intended to be a miner.
But that’s exactly what Rhodes’ company — Gypsum Resources LLC — does more than 4,000 feet up Blue Diamond Hill’s curving road, where the quiet of the vast mountain space is intermittently interrupted by clanking machinery.
Plans to build homes on the mine after he bought it in 2003 have long stalled in Clark County, and he’s had to resort to mining, he said.
If Rhodes gets his way, however, the couple-thousand or so acres of land he owns will be occupied by master-planned communities with small-town amenities.
The developer last week cleared a significant hurdle for the first phase of the project, after he received preliminary approval to construct more than 400 single-family homes on a parcel just under 700 acres.
The Clark County Zoning Commission voted unanimously Oct. 4 to accept a tentative map of the project, but imposed conditions on the company.
The decision was criticized by conservationists with Save Red Rock, who argued during the public meeting that the housing project would “desecrate” Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, which borders Rhodes’ property.
The commission had approved the project in 2021, but sent the application back to the drawing board after initial plans to build a golf course on the community were shut down.
Despite the drawn-out process and opposition,“I totally expected” the approval, Rhodes told reporters during a Monday tour of the mountain.
Red Rock lover
“I love Red Rock as much, or more, than anybody,” Rhodes said. “Being the largest land owner in this area, it would be more important to me — the future of Red Rock — than anybody else.”
Rhodes said the project is up against people with conflicts of interest and political agendas, who want to “monopolize” the area.
“Save Red Rock, wow, how do you come against that,” he said. “We’re not in Red Rock.”
The initial 429 homes are planned on a 671-acre plot of land that’s blocked by a mountain range, and outside the boundaries of the conservation area.
“It’s been just a series of misrepresentation throughout this entire time,” Rhodes said about opponents who’ve also claimed the project would disturb scenic views.
He said his battle centers on property rights.
“I just can’t back down,” he said. “Someone’s gonna have to stand up for property rights. What if you woke up and someone took one of your four tires, how would you feel about that?”
Rhodes has to begin construction within four years before he loses development rights, and he still has to receive approval from the Bureau of Land Management and the Nevada Department of Transportation to build a paved road toward the project off state Route 159. The developer will also have to secure other utilities, such as sewer services, and suspend mining operations as building commences.
Gypsum Resources verbally agreed to the terms Oct. 4.
Rhodes said his company has been in discussions with the Clark County Fire Department about the access for emergency vehicles, a question that came up during the Zoning Commission meeting. The unpaved road already is easily accessible to vehicles, including heavier semi-trucks, he noted.
Rhodes — who built the eponymous Rhodes Ranch community — bought the gypsum mine atop Blue Diamond Hill in 2003.
Plans to build homes have long stalled in disputes with Clark County, Rhodes said.
Gypsum Resources, which is in bankruptcy proceedings, has blamed lawmakers for slow-walking permits and causing its financial predicament.
The developer has accused Clark County Commissioner Justin Jones, who “reluctantly” made a motion to approve last week’s agenda items, of misleading the state ethics commission and illicitly swapping political favors with Gov. Steve Sisolak, when the Democratic governor was still the chairman of the commission, in order to stymie the project.
Jones previously represented Save Red Rock as its legal counsel.
After the unanimous vote, Jones told the Review-Journal that he voted for approval because it falls within county code.
“I certainly share the concerns of many of development within Red Rock Canyon,” he said.
Rhodes would like to see the final map recorded for the first phase in under two years, and while he has yet to name the community, he’s been in contact with some of the “best” architects and designers in the world.
“I would build a world-class project,” he said from an edge of the mountain, overlooking the valley — from Summerlin, through the Las Vegas Strip, into Lake Mead.