Clark County filed a lawsuit in District Court on Friday seeking to resolve a dispute between an environmental group and a company that wants to build about 5,000 homes on 2,010 acres atop Blue Diamond Hill.
Gypsum Resources and Save Red Rock, the nonprofit that opposes the development plans, are named as defendants.
In recent months, Save Red Rock has challenged the legality of the proposed development. The nonprofit’s attorney, Justin Jones, has claimed a concept plan filed by Gypsum Resources this year violates both the county’s master plan and Title 30 of the county code, which outlines the major projects process.
The development would be next to the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts.
The plans and land belong to Gypsum Resources, a mining company connected to developer Jim Rhodes, and has repeatedly drawn resistance from locals who worry the development would damage the ecosystem, overburden local roads and mar a historic scenic view.
County commissioners were scheduled to vote on the development concept plan Dec. 7, but postponed it to a later date.
Jones said the county’s lawsuit is a pre-emptive move to keep his nonprofit from suing later to stop the development.
“We have a serious issue with the concept of a taxpayer-funded lawsuit seeking to silence a grass-roots organization from participating in the public process,” Jones said. “It certainly appears that Clark County … the people that are supposed to be representing us, are adopting wholeheartedly the positions of a developer appearing before them.”
County spokesman Dan Kulin said no one is stopping Save Red Rock from making the arguments it wants. Instead, he said, county commissioners authorized the lawsuit because they want to know how the approval of a similar concept plan from Gypsum Resources in 2011 affects the actions the commission can take today.
“The hope is to avoid future litigation by having these issues resolved,” he said.
The lawsuit also states the county’s Planning Commission was incorrect when its members voted against recommending the development plans in October.
On Tuesday, Planning Commission Chairman Dan Shaw said he stood by his decision that the concept plan the company filed earlier this year does not comply with the county’s comprehensive plan. He said this was the first time the county had taken such action against a recommendation in his six years on the commission.
“If the county attorney feels we made that recommendation in error, he certainly has a right to do what he has done,” Shaw said, addressing the lawsuit. “I will point out that he sat through the entire (planning commission) meeting and didn’t say anything.”
The lawsuit also argues that county commissioners do not need to approve Gypsum Resources’ current concept plan because the 2011 concept plan that was approved never expired.
Jones called that argument ridiculous.
“Their own Clark County staff has opined on more than one occasion that the 2011 concept plan expired,” he said.
In a statement Tuesday, project spokesman Ron Krater said the issues Save Red Rock raised against the current concept plan were settled with the approval of the 2011 concept plan.
“It is clear that the threats made by the Save Red Rock Organization are meant primarily to delay the process, not advance viable solutions,” he wrote.
Contact Michael Scott Davidson at email@example.com or 702-477- 3861. Follow @davidsonlvrj on Twitter.