City rejects proposed indoor skydiving business

It was close, but a proposed indoor sky-diving business didn’t get clearance for takeoff Wednesday as neighborhood residents and businesses rallied to keep the project grounded.

“I’ve got to pause and reflect,” said Gary Speer, who proposed building the six-story facility on land he owns near Sahara Avenue and Sixth Street. “We were ready to go on a $7.2 million project in a redevelopment area. And we were close.”

The Las Vegas City Council voted 4-3 to deny variances Speer needed for reduced parking spaces and landscape buffers. His attorney, Bob Gronauer, said they will consider revising the application so that the variances aren’t needed.

Mayor Pro Tem Gary Reese, who represents the area where the building was proposed, said the center wouldn’t be “harmonious” with the surrounding neighborhood. He noted that opponents mustered about three dozen people to attend Wednesday’s meeting while the applicant did not bring any neighborhood supporters.

Councilmen Steve Wolfson, Steve Ross and Stavros Anthony voted against turning the project down.

Gronauer said people’s concerns about noise and traffic were misplaced. The vertical wind tunnel would be sealed and enclosed in a foot of concrete. Also, the city attached a condition that the wind tunnel be no louder than 55 decibels — about as loud as a normal conversation — at a distance of 100 feet.

He also offered to promise not to hold contests there, and normal operation would limit the use to no more than 22 people every 90 minutes .

If the business didn’t succeed, he added, the building has been designed for use as office space, with a wind tunnel attached.

Gronauer also emphasized the economic benefits. It would be a $7.2 million investment in a part of town full of empty old buildings, creating 50 to 75 construction jobs and 15 permanent jobs.

That’s great, opponents said.

“We’re not anti-growth,” said Daniel Stewart, a lawyer representing some of the opponents. “We welcome wholeheartedly new office space, new retail, new restaurants.”

The sky-diving simulator would cater to tourists, opponents said, and they don’t live in a tourist area.

“It’s the location I’m not happy about,” said Joyce Pearlman, who owns property nearby. “This is a very old neighborhood. This is not the place for this to be.”

Anthony said objections were overblown: He noted the parking variance would allow Speer to have 59 parking spaces instead of 69.

And Wolfson said the economic investment is sorely needed.

“This is a tough area. I’d like to see this area come back,” he said. “It’s hard for me to say no… to a business venture like this coming to this area.”

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