EDITORIAL: Commission should reconsider, let Roos-N-More reopen

Clark County has all kinds of fun attractions, things to do and family-friendly outdoor recreation. But it doesn’t have a major zoo. And next week, the Clark County Commission very well might put down the region’s closest thing to one.

If the elected commissioners follow through on a coup de grace for the Roos-N-More zoo in Moapa, they’ll deliver one of the most senseless, heavy-handed and — a word we rarely use to describe government actions — meanest permit decisions we can recall.

On Aug. 5, commissioners went against a county staff recommendation to award Roos-N-More a special use permit, effectively ordering owners Jay and Valerie Holt to close the 9-acre zoo that has been home to kangaroos, camels, llamas and hundreds of other creatures since 2008. Commissioners made that decision even though the Holts have raised and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars making improvements to their property, 55 miles north of Las Vegas, to satisfy the county code inspectors who shut down the zoo in January 2014. That closure was prompted by a single anonymous complaint about the portable toilets the zoo had made available to guests. Since that closure, the Holts have been unable to hold the “open zoo” days that provide the revenue needed to keep the place running. Private tours and traveling exhibits don’t pay the bills, which run about $1,200 per day for food, payroll and other overhead.

The permitting process for new restrooms and a commercial kitchen to prepare the animals’ food took most of last year. The Holts had to acquire more land for parking spaces the county said they needed. A flood caused $25,000 in damage to the property. But the Holts held on, week after week, with the goal of reopening to the Southern Nevadans who have supported them.

The County Commission will reconsider its Aug. 5 decision on Wednesday, thanks to a request from Commissioner Mary Beth Scow. “I felt uncomfortable at the end of that [Aug. 5] meeting knowing that a lot of community resources had been put into that. … Doing it without allowing it to come back was just harsh.”

Good for Ms. Scow. Roos-N-More does not have dangerous predators on its property. It is not surrounded by residential neighborhoods. It is far away from the city and anyone who might not want to be near its sounds and smells. Yes, there are plenty of people who hate zoos and want all of them closed, their animals freed. But Roos-N-More takes good care of its animals. The Holts are veterinarians.

There is no reason the County Commission can’t figure out a way to let the zoo reopen. There is no reason for the commission to ruin the Holts and close a place that has brought joy to a lot of Southern Nevadans over the years. The commission should approve the special use permit.

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