Proposed hotel project raises neighborhood plan concerns

A proposed hotel and gas station on a small plot in northwest Las Vegas has residents worried and city planners concerned that a carefully crafted neighborhood plan is being ruined.

The eight-acre project at the corner of Durango Drive and Farm Road is expected to go before the Las Vegas City Council today.

Developer Rapinder Chima wants to build a five-story Holiday Inn, a convenience store with a gas station and car wash, a seafood restaurant and retail space on a slice of land next to U.S. Highway 95.

To do so, Chima needs a zoning change that permits more commercial uses, as well as approval for slot machines in the convenience store and restaurant and permission to construct a five-story building where the maximum height allowed is two stories.

It’s the hotel that’s drawn the most scrutiny, since the land was originally zoned for businesses that would serve the immediate community.

"That’s exactly what we don’t want out here — something that draws tons and tons of people," said Novelyn Stewart, one of several neighbors who registered opposition to the project.

Instead, she and others prefer the model of a neighboring development, which has businesses like a pet boutique and a candy store and draws pedestrians from the surrounding houses.

"Something that is more geared toward the actual community that lives in this area," she said, "not drawing people from everywhere to stay in a hotel."

A city analysis says the project is "not compatible and harmonious" with surrounding development, and notes that the specific land-use category here — "service commercial" — is rapidly disappearing.

Service commercial means uses such as a neighborhood shopping center for nearby residents. The developer is asking for "general commercial" because without it, the restaurant can’t get a liquor license.

That zoning also allows commercial uses that are "not generally compatible with the adjoining residential areas."

This part of Las Vegas has been designated as "Town Center," and development guidelines call for a mix of developments that allow people to have access to jobs, shopping and recreation close to where they live.

The change sought by Chima "disturbs the compatible balances of land uses," according to city staff. The report notes that land designated for service commercial has decreased 41 percent since 1999, even though trends suggest more of that kind of development will be needed.

Before the Las Vegas Planning Commission, Chima argued that his development is compatible.

He hopes to have a bookstore and a Trader Joe’s in the retail portion, said his gas station would offer customers competition and that the hotel would be used by visiting relatives or people with family in the nearby Centennial Hills Hospital.

"This is pretty much the highest and best use," he said. "Some visitors don’t want a hotel with gaming and smoking, especially if they’re visiting the hospital."

Some planning commissioners questioned backing a tavern license for the project, but agreed with Chima that a hotel was needed and that what he was proposing would work on land fronting the highway.

They unanimously forwarded all his requests to the City Council, except for the tavern permit, which was approved 3-2. The council has the final word on the project.

Through a city spokesperson, Councilman Steve Ross, who represents residents in the area, said he didn’t want to comment until after today’s council meeting.

Planning Commission Chairman Byron Goynes said he doesn’t want the decision to be viewed as a precedent.

"Something needs to be put here," Goynes said. "It’s going to be commercial. You’ve got to look at the interchange there.

"I can support it. I think it’s good for the corner."

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

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