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EDITORIAL: Las Vegas effort to annex county islands appears doomed to fail

Members of the Las Vegas City Council got an earful Monday night from northwest residents who prefer the city leave them be.

The Review-Journal’s Jamie Munks reported that “hundreds of people” descended upon the council chambers to voice their disapproval for a city proposal to annex 872 acres that are currently part of unincorporated Clark County. Most of the land sits in a region bounded by Rancho Drive to the east, U.S. Highway 95 to the west and Vegas Drive to the south.

A smaller area in question includes properties just northeast of the intersection of Jones Boulevard and Sahara Avenue.

Some residents have called the city’s plan a power play or money grab, given that Las Vegas residents pay higher property taxes than those outside the city limits. The move would generate an estimated $3 million for the city. In a letter to city officials, Clark County commissioners criticized the proposal, arguing that the “city’s boundaries should not be extended to take in land merely for the purpose of increasing the city’s tax revenues.”

Fair enough. But it’s certainly reasonable for the council to examine annexation, given the geography in play. The 10 areas in question — comprised of 1,500 properties — are checkerboarded urban islands surrounded by the city and not contiguous with other county property. It’s not an exaggeration to suggest that many residents may not know whether they live within the city limits or not.

But there are additional issues to be considered beyond the convenience of consolidation — specifically, the wishes of those who live or own land in the affected areas. And if Monday’s meeting is a representative indication, most residents and property owners would prefer not to be forced under the city’s domain. Some worried about the financial ramifications of annexation, while others fretted about potential lifestyle issues, Ms. Munks reported.

“I hope you care about what the majority wants,” one woman told the council.

Under state law, the city can’t move forward if a majority of property owners — in terms of both assessed value and acreage — protest the annexation. This guideline is weighted toward the governmental entity, because it assumes that residents who don’t actively protest a proposed annexation are expressing their approval through inaction. That is not necessarily the case.

Nevertheless, it appears that city officials have so far failed miserably to make a convincing case. Councilman Stavros Anthony assured the protesters on Monday, “I guarantee you, I’ve heard loud and clear.”

The implication is obvious. The city’s effort has been ill-conceived and looks doomed to fail.

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