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Lincoln County sues over annexation

Lincoln County officials want a judge to decide if Mesquite can make history by expanding its city limits across the Clark County line.

The rural county has filed a lawsuit to block Mesquite’s push to annex more than 5,300 acres at the southern edge of Lincoln County. The move would make Mesquite the first Nevada city to be in more than one county.

The Mesquite City Council has already approved annexation of almost 2,600 acres. Council members are scheduled to vote early next year on another 2,722 acres that would expand the city even deeper into Lincoln County.

Lincoln County District Attorney Greg Barlow said the lawsuit, filed Dec. 10 in district court in Pioche, seeks an injunction to halt further annexation until the court rules in the matter.

“Legally, I don’t think they can do what they’re doing, but hey that’s what the lawyers and the courts are for,” Barlow said.

Mesquite Mayor Susan Holecheck said the lawsuit doesn’t change anything for the time being. Until the court rules otherwise, city officials will continue the annexation process, which was triggered by a land owner’s request.

“The city can’t refuse it,” Holecheck said of the annexation petition.

The property is owned by C&O Holdings, a Las Vegas subsidiary of the firm that developed Southern Highlands. C&O requested annexation in August, though it has no active plan for what it calls Lincoln Highlands.

Chris Armstrong, the developer’s vice president of planning, has said the housing market will determine what happens but he expects no development for years.

C&O bought the vacant property in a 2005 Bureau of Land Management auction of more than 13,000 acres in Lincoln County that sold for $47.5 million, nearly four times the appraised value.

Company officials have said that they are seeking annexation now so they will be ready when the housing market rebounds.

In its lawsuit against C&O Holdings and Mesquite, Lincoln County argues that allowing land within its boundaries to be annexed by a city now in Clark County creates “confusion and uncertainty” in a host of areas, including tax collections, health services, building codes, licensing fees, court jurisdictions and division of grant money.

Because Mesquite is doing something without precedence in Nevada, Holecheck said she can’t fault Lincoln County for seeking clarification.

“I think it probably is a constitutional issue that really needs to be decided by a court,” she said. “It would not surprise me if it’s decided on an appellate level or by the (state) Supreme Court.”

Holecheck said that if Lincoln County prevails in district court, it will be up to the land owner to appeal.

“It will be on their dime,” she said.

Contact reporter Henry Brean at hbrean@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0350.

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