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LV housing project moves forward

More than a year ago, Las Vegas awarded exclusive negotiating rights for a piece of public land to the Tapestry Group, an Arizona nonprofit that contacted the city about building affordable housing in western Las Vegas.

Earlier this week, the City Council finally approved a development agreement to provide “workforce housing” in the form of 270 apartments near the corner of Tenaya Way and Westcliff Drive — albeit narrowly, on a 4-3 vote, with the dissenters concerned about the Tapestry Group’s experience and the way the deal was made.

“Our role in this is to act as a safeguard,” said Councilwoman Lois Tarkanian. “I feel very strongly that the perception of this, if not the actual reality of it, would not appear to be in the public interest.”

It is in the public’s interest to let housing options proceed, other council members said.

“Right now we’re in a crisis to provide rental units,” Councilman Steve Wolfson said. “I think we need to move forward and provide this kind of housing.”

The housing would be aimed at households making roughly between $30,000 and $48,000 a year.

With the agreement approved, the city’s next step is to ask the Bureau of Land Management to make the 15-acre parcel available through a program designed to dedicate land to affordable housing.

The Tapestry Group has to go through the normal approval process, and is not asking for taxpayer money to pursue the project.

The nonprofit should’ve been asked to go through what’s known as a “request for proposal,” or RFP, process, said Tarkanian and Councilman Steve Ross. That would have given other parties a chance to pitch plans for the land as well.

“Their reluctance to participate in an RFP process bothers me,” Ross said.

While the city did enter exclusive negotiations with Tapestry, that agreement has long since expired, Tarkanian said.

She also said the relatively young company is an “unknown commodity” as far as building multifamily housing, having so far only purchased existing buildings and remodeled them.

That’s true, acknowledged Gene Wilczewski, Tapestry’s development coordinator. But he pointed to his more than 40-year career in real estate development that predates his association with Tapestry.

He also said the nonprofit would walk away if asked to submit an RFP. Not only would it be time-consuming, he said, but the BLM program has been available for 10 years.

If no one else has come forward by now, there’s probably little competing interest, Wilczewski said.

“I’m not interested in wasting our time on taking a shot,” Wilczewski said. “We’re ready to go forward today.”

Deputy City Manager Orlando Sanchez said there probably are organizations that would offer competing proposals, although there’s no way of knowing if those plans would ask for an investment or subsidy from the city.

Tapestry’s plans call for one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments that would rent on a sliding scale depending on family size and income, according to a report submitted in 2006.

A single person would have to make less than $33,100 a year to qualify, and would pay $830 a month for rent. A family of four with a household income less than $47,300 would pay $1,065 a month.

Tarkanian, Ross and Councilman Ricki Barlow voted against the agreement. Mayor Oscar Goodman, Wolfson, Councilman Larry Brown and Mayor Pro Tem Gary Reese voted for it.

Contact reporter Alan Choate at achoate@reviewjournal.com or (702) 229-6435.

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