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Las Vegas compromises on Pinto Palomino neighborhood gate plan

Updated April 19, 2019 - 9:37 pm

For nearly a year, some residents of an affluent community have urged Las Vegas officials to shut off outside access to a road cutting through the middle of their neighborhood as they worried about crime.

But even more people who live in the Ward 1 development of Pinto Palomino, located in the Medical District west of downtown, have opposed the calls for a gate where Shetland Road meets Alta Drive.

Since last summer, the traffic and parking commission rejected the gate, and city officials have conducted a survey of residents, held a neighborhood meeting, studied the traffic and collected crime data. The issue was heard at two council meetings, including a 45-minute discussion Wednesday, where a resolution was finally reached: A partial closure using a traffic median.

But that median — which would allow right turns onto Alta but no access to Shetland from Alta — probably won’t satisfy either side, said Michael McDonald, president of the neighborhood association.

Several opponents of any closure criticized the compromise and McDonald said those who wanted it fully blocked were lukewarm to the compromise: “They feel this is something they could live with.”

The neighborhood survey got 70 replies, 50 against a gate closure and 20 in favor, the city said. The idea was proposed by a minority of neighbors unnerved by burglaries they say had increased over two years — and the turn onto Alta they saw as an escape route for criminals.

Burglaries, robberies and thefts have increased between 2017 and 2018 in the general area bordered by Campbell Drive to the west, Palomino Lane to the south, Rancho Drive to the east and Alta Drive to the north.

There were 11 crimes in 2017 and 15 last year, including one aggravated assault, according to FBI uniform crime report statistics presented to the council Wednesday. But Mike Janssen, the city’s director of public works, explained 18 of the crimes between the two years occurred on Rancho or Alta drives – major thoroughfares on the outskirts of the neighborhood.

The Las Vegas Metropolitian Police Department concluded it “does not believe the gate will be beneficial” to reducing crime and both police and the city’s fire department argued it would slow response times, while a city traffic study found no existing safety issues in the area.

Still, city officials voted 4-0 to approve the partial closure and will likely decide in the future whether to add speed cushions on Shetland. (Speed cushions are a type of speed bump that allows large vehicles to pass while forcing passenger cars to slow down.) Opponents argued the median would simply cause a problem where one does not exist, disrupt traffic flow and serve as a stark reminder of a community squabble.

“This would divide the neighborhood,” resident Jason Jackson said. “It’s an open neighborhood and it should remain an open neighborhood. It doesn’t need to turn into an us-versus-them, which I think it is.”

Marijuana lounges on last leg

The city will soon decide whether to allow marijuana lounges.

The plan — pushed by Councilman Bob Coffin, would provide safe spaces for people to consume cannabis — has been in limbo amid a fast-aproaching deadline. If the proposal is not approved by May 1, it will die, city officials say.

Coffin introduced the draft bill in January. It was amended to remove alcohol service, which gained the support of law enforcement, but Coffin has struggled to get fellow elected officials behind it.

After it was clear the plan would not receive the four necessary votes Wednesday – only four council members were present and Councilman Stavros Anthony is an ardent opponent – the bill was kicked to the May 1 meeting for its final shot.

Las Vegas would become one of the first major cities in the U.S. to allow marijuana lounges if the bill passes, joining others like Denver and San Francisco.

Contact Shea Johnson at sjohnson@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0272. Follow @Shea_LVRJ on Twitter.

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