Road plan widens concerns

Someday, the stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard from Sahara Avenue to Fourth Street might be 20 feet wider than it is today.

Someday. There’s no immediate widening proposal and no money to pay for construction if there was one.

But the fact that the city of Las Vegas wants to add those dimensions to its long-range streets plan has some business owners on the mile-long piece of road worried — about parking, about expanding, about property values and the future of their businesses.

"We’re as opposed as we could be," said Tyler Foote, co-owner of the Chapel of the Flowers, 1717 Las Vegas Boulevard South. The chapel is built flush against the property line and the public sidewalk.

If the road expanded by 10 feet on each side, "we literally would have to tear down our wedding chapel that’s been here for 50 years and build something new," he said.

"Ten feet. That would basically be our aisle."

Las Vegas City Council members were sympathetic to those concerns and last week rescheduled a hearing on the widening proposal to Feb. 4. They also stressed, however, that the change is needed for long-range planning purposes and that no one’s being asked to do anything to their property now.

"All it does is give somebody a heads up," said Mayor Pro Tem Gary Reese, whose Ward 3 includes the area.

"When they sell the property, buy a property … they can look at it and they can say, ‘We need to dedicate 10 feet or 20 feet,’ or whatever it might be."

Property owners are compensated when private land is taken for a public project.

Road expansion and improvement could mean more cars traveling in that stretch of downtown, and officials said some widening will eventually be necessary so that the boulevard north of Sahara will line up with the Strip, which the Regional Transportation Commission eventually plans to expand to six or eight lanes.

The RTC has also looked at bus-only lanes up and down Las Vegas Boulevard to enhance transit options.

There aren’t objections to growth. But there is the practical fact that those improvements mean major changes to some businesses.

The Holiday Hotel, for example, is one of a number of businesses built flush with the sidewalk. If the road is widened, manager Yvonne DuPlain asked the council last week, does that mean people exiting her wedding chapel will step directly into the street?

The situation is more personal for Robyne Brooks, who with her sister owns a small shopping center on the 1600 block of Las Vegas Boulevard South. Their father built the property in the 1940s and left it to them, and they’ve gone to a lot of trouble to update the building and get new tenants.

A wider Las Vegas Boulevard would pretty much eliminate their already limited parking, Brooks said.

"If we don’t have that, they have basically rendered that beautiful piece of property worthless," she said. "For those of us who are so close to the road, what are we supposed to do? I can’t move my building.

"We wanted to leave this property to our children."

The uncertain nature of these long-range plans can cause headaches for property owners, Mayor Oscar Goodman said.

"It’s really difficult for them to figure out what their future is because it’s so amorphous," he said. "It’s almost like a cloud hanging over their property."

It’s still better to have notice that something will eventually happen that to have a road project come out of the blue, Reese said.

"They know what’s going to happen," he said. "We’re not trying to burden anybody. This is what may happen 15, 20 years from now, 30 years from now.

"That’s all it is: a plan for the future."

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

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