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Candidates spar on housing density in North Las Vegas race

Housing density is taking center stage in the race to represent Ward 4 on the North Las Vegas City Council.

City Council candidate and longtime businessman Pete Shields has criticized incumbent Richard Cherchio’s support for density, including a development near Deer Springs Way and Losee Road that would create nearly 1,200 homes on more than 85 acres.

Shields said he is not entirely against high-density housing in North Las Vegas, but he wants to shield aging residents and homeowners from dense developments that he said can breed problems. The current City Council, he said, seems not to consider people who want to build equity in their homes.

“It’s great that we’re getting people to afford these affordable homes, but it also hurts people who have bought a home,” he said. “There has to be better planning.”

Shields wants to focus not only on starter homes, but larger homes so families can stay in North Las Vegas when they need the space.

Cherchio, however, said an affordable housing shortage is a reality the city has to face. Although he does not want to put dense developments around existing single-family homes, he said he would support a variety of housing options to cater to young people moving to the city and older people considering downsizing.

The goal of the development at Deer Springs and Losee, he said, is to create a community similar to The District in Henderson. The North Las Vegas development would occupy an area of desert near the VA Medical Center and one of the city’s “job creation zones,” where officials want to attract more medical jobs.

Shields said he is concerned about what projects the council might approve around it.

The idea of a perfect community consisting only of large lots, Cherchio said, is not reality.

Cherchio and Shields will face off in the June 11 general election.

The incumbent councilman survived a bitter six-candidate primary, where Mayor John Lee sought to oust him in favor of Planning Commissioner George Warner.

Cherchio received nearly 46 percent of the vote in April, forcing him to face off with Shields, who received about 21 percent of the vote.

Shields has run his Mesquite-based company, Pete Shields Stucco, for nearly 30 years. He said his business experience gives him an edge in scrutinizing and providing input for development proposals.

If elected, he wants to concentrate on small businesses and provide seminars to those who want to get into business.

“If I win this race, I’m not going to be a part-time city councilman,” he said. “(I’m) probably going to be their worst nightmare because I’m going to be there all the time trying to find out how we can change things.”

Cherchio served on the council for two years after a 2009 appointment. He lost his election in 2011 by a single vote but won the seat back in 2015.

He said he always tries to be accessible to residents, responding to emails late at night and taking phone calls, even if he’s sitting down for dinner.

“Why wait?” he said. “I don’t understand the purpose of waiting. There are no hours when you’re elected. You know, you’re not elected from 9 to 5, so, you know, what’s the difference if it interferes with your personal life?”

If re-elected, he wants to attract more businesses to North Las Vegas and focus on quality-of-life issues, such as maintaining parks and adding library hours.

Early voting for the general election began Saturday and runs through June 7.

Contact Blake Apgar at bapgar@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5298. Follow @blakeapgar on Twitter.

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