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Rural Henderson road expansion faces new hurdle

After a mixed vote Thursday afternoon, the Henderson Planning Commission will not recommend the expansion of a road in a rural southern area of the city.

The road extension of Paradise Hills Drive, from Nevada State Drive to College Drive, has been tossed around since 1970, according to city meeting notes. The topic has become a heated debate in multiple recent city meetings.

Proponents, including Nevada State College, argued safety and student traffic deem the road necessary. Nearby residents in the Mission Hills neighborhood fear crime, busy traffic and danger to their horses.

Ranching neighborhood

Jay DePland stood in a corral next to Babe, a black horse with a white star Wednesday. He wore a plaid button-down shirt, jeans and a cowboy hat with a folded brim. His home sits one mile from the college.

“This is the last place you can get acres,” he said, “This is the end of Henderson up here.”

DePland, moved to Mission Hills for rural ranch life 38 years ago. He expressed “vehement” opposition to the Paradise Hills Drive road extension on Wednesday, while tending to Babe, Red, Hoss and Elvis.

The potential of cars hitting horses on the proposed road concerned DePland.

“It’s going to jeopardize them just as much as a kid,” DePland said.

DePland and his neighbors fear the City of Henderson might move forward with the road extension despite local opposition, but he was thrilled after Thursday night’s vote.

“A definite two thumbs up and if I had a third one I’d stick that one up to,” he said.

This is not the first time Mission Hills residents said they’ve felt slighted by a city project. DePland recalled the construction of Mission Hills Park in 2000.

“We had over 360 horses in this neighborhood,” he said, “We voted on having an equestrian park.”

Two months after the vote, DePland said he knew something was wrong when he saw baseball diamonds.

“I’ve seen Budweiser horses kick field goals, but I never seen a horse throw a baseball,” he said.

A growing college

Nevada State College Deputy Chief of Staff Anthony Ruiz said the new road would allow the rapidly growing college to handle the influx.

“We are now one of the fastest growing colleges in the country,” he said, “If you look out into the desert, that’s all going to be future college campus.”

The college’s master plan, presented to the city in 2010, showed the college planned to accommodate 25,000 students on 509 acres.

Mission Hills residents have argued that there are multiple points of access to the campus, including Nevada State Drive and Paradise Hills Drive from Old Vegas Trail and Dawson Avenue.

Ruiz said two streets in the small neighborhood could not handle the traffic concerns, especially with nearby railroad tracks.

“If you want to come to Nevada State College you need to cross a train track and that’s an issue because we’re near a switching station,” he said, “That train can cause delays and backups that are sometimes 15 to 20 minutes.”

In a statement Thursday night Ruiz wrote to the Review-Journal, “As the first responders outlined at the Planning Commission, more capacity is needed to access Nevada State in the event of emergencies as we grow.”

On Wednesday at around 1:30 p.m., a Union Pacific train carrying less than 20 cars neared the railway crossing at Nevada State Drive. The gate arms remained down for exactly 90 seconds while the train crossed onto another nearby track.

The other railway crossing, that intersects on East Paradise Hills Drive in front Nevada State College, does not have gate arms or railway crossing bells, and it has a metal reflector post bolted in the middle of the track.

Residents, workers and bicyclists near the railway crossing said they typically see the train between 1 and 3 p.m. on Wednesdays.

Henderson resident Zoe High, lives on the other side of the proposed road extension and said she is supportive of the proposed project because it would help connect her family, who lives near the college and nearby Paradise Hills neighborhood.

“I’m pregnant, so if there’s an emergency I would want to see them quickly,” she said, “It’d be nice to just be able to pop over to Paradise Hills and go see them instead of getting on the freeway.”

High said she loved the rural nature of the area and the nearby trails, but because of so few roads, she traveled three miles on U.S. Highway 11 to see her family.

“We have a beautiful trail that goes along this area to the (Union) Pacific Railroad Trail, it’s one of my favorite parts,” she said. “It’s right off the desert so it’s great for hiking, biking and nature but it’s pretty cut off from the rest of Henderson.”

Henderson City Council is expected to vote on the proposal during their public meeting on Oct. 18. Meanwhile, Mission Hills residents have created a website to bring attention to the battle.

Contact James Schaeffer at jschaeffer@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0214. Follow @jamesmschaeffer on Twitter.

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