EDITORIAL: No more ‘arm wrestling’

It’s no exaggeration to say that many local residents don’t know if they live in the city of Las Vegas or unincorporated Clark County. The issue generates confusion because numerous pockets — large and small — of county land exist within the city’s boundaries, particularly in the northwest valley.

For years, the two governments have operated under an agreement regarding services and annexation issues for the county islands. In 2015, however, the city opted against renewing the deal, leading to acrimony on both sides.

The governments have clashed on occasion over city efforts to absorb some of the checker-boarded property and the costs of providing fire protection, sewer service and other public necessities to those who live there. County officials argue that Las Vegas annexation efforts are intended simply to expand the city’s tax base. City officials counter that municipal taxpayers subsidize county residents who hook into city sewer lines.

Now, though, city and county officials have an opportunity to end the sniping and do what’s best for residents and property owners. They should seize the moment.

Both the County Commission and City Council this week will consider a new pact governing the areas in question. The deal would, among other things, require the city to win approval from affected residents before proceeding with annexation. It also outlines building densities and other land use guidelines for the area, which remains somewhat rural despite three decades of encroaching development.

“Those neighborhoods don’t want curbs, gutters and sidewalks,” said Commissioner Larry Brown, who represents the northwest valley. “They want it to … have that character.”

Mr. Brown noted that the deal will reimpose certainty and stability for residents. “There was tremendous consistency and security given to all those parties, and that’s what we want to get back to,” he said.

Of course any attempt to preserve the integrity of these neighborhoods should also respect the property rights of land owners in the area as well as reflect the intention of long-standing zoning practices and requirements. Meanwhile, the city’s push for higher sewer fees for residents of the county islands must reflect actual costs to avoid potential inequities.

“Once we get these issues ironed out,” said City Councilman Steve Ross, “there’s not going to be anything to arm wrestle about anymore.”

Good. The overall framework for the agreement is sound. Let’s hope it forms a foundation for future cooperation between the two entities.

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