Updated May 30, 2023 - 5:59 pm
A U.S. District Court judge dismissed all federal claims against Clark County in the long-running legal dispute over development on the privately-owned Blue Diamond Hill gypsum mine near Red Rock Canyon.
In a 35-page judgment entered Tuesday, U.S. Judge Gloria M. Navarro granted Clark County’s motions for summary judgment against Gypsum Resources LLC.
Attorneys for developer Jim Rhodes have argued that interference by the county, including Commissioner Justin Jones and county staffers, railroaded his proposed housing project overlooking Red Rock Canyon.
Gypsum attorney Todd Bice lamented that the court chose to pass on the case even though it “exposed illicit backroom dealings and findings that evidence was intentionally destroyed.”
In her court ruling, Navarro said Clark County maintained discretion whether to grant or deny Rhodes’ applications.
“(Gypsum) has no protected entitlement to, and thus no property interest in, a change in zoning or process to obtain a desired change in zoning,” she wrote. “Gypsum’s argument conflates consideration with approval. Gypsum cannot claim it has a vested right to approval of its a Major Project Application.”
Navarro declined to take up claims Gypsum made under state law that can still be litigated in Clark County District Court.
No rights violated
Navarro also dismissed Gypsum claims that Clark County had unconstitutionally taken land from Gypsum and violated the company’s due process and equal protection guarantees.
“The Court’s ruling solely on federal claims — focusing on the technical issue of whether the County’s agreement constitute a federally-protected property right —unfortunately just postpones resolution of Gypsum’s rights and directs Gypsum to another court,” Bice wrote in a statement. “As it was when it first filed suit, Gypsum remains resolute that once a jury hears the evidence of the County’s improper actions, it will find in Gypsum’s favor.”
In a court filing, Gypsum alleged damages at around $2 billion.
“Unfortunately, the continued delay in the resolution of those important matters to another court helps neither Gypsum nor the public as substantial damages continue to accumulate,” Bice wrote.
Clark County applauded the ruling.
“We welcome the Court’s ruling which dismisses all claims made by Gypsum Resources against Clark County, including dismissal of Gypsum’s claims for monetary damages,” the county wrote in a statement.
Jones still facing investigation
A separate federal judge recently issued sanctions against Jones for the deletion of text messages from his cellphone pertaining to efforts to halt the project. The sanctions, which Jones is appealing, led the Nevada State Bar to launch an investigation into the commissioner.
Citing the litigation, Jones earlier this month announced he would be stepping down as vice chair of the board of commissioners. Jones, who referred to the county’s statement when asked for comment, said Tuesday that the court ruling doesn’t change that decision.
A possible replacement hasn’t been announced.
Before taking office, Jones was legal counsel for the Save Red Rock conservation group, which opposed Rhodes’ project and sued Clark County in an effort to halt it.
Gypsum alleged that Jones traded favors with then-Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak; if he would delay voting on the development, the group would endorse Sisolak’s campaign for governor, and drop the lawsuit.
County staff had previously recommended commissioners approve Rhodes’ project, but then changed course after Jones was elected. Attorneys for Rhodes alleged a conspiracy and a coverup.
Both Sisolak and Jones have denied wrongdoing.
In October, the Clark County Zoning Commission unanimously approved a tentative map for 400 single-family homes Rhodes intends to build on the mine site.