Red Rock development a matter of property rights

In his 1991 book, “Parliament of Whores,” humorist P.J. O’Rourke attempts to make sense out of a bloated and wasteful federal government subject to “fantastic ideas about its own capabilities.” The last chapter, a tribute to the old adage that “all politics is local,” focuses on an actual town hall meeting in a small New Hampshire village — dubbed “Blatherboro” — that the author calls home.

At issue for town residents and bureaucrats was a sewer regulation “aimed at stopping a golf course and condominium complex already under construction on the west side of town,” Mr. O’Rourke writes. Many locals opposed the new development and urged the town leaders to impose new requirements that would derail the proposal.

“It was at this moment,” Mr. O’Rourke remembers, “that I achieved enlightenment about government. … The whole idea of our government is this: If enough people get together and act in concert, they can take something and not pay for it. And … we were about to commit such a theft. … We were going to use our suffrage to steal a fellow citizen’s property rights.”

All this comes to mind following a court ruling Tuesday involving a proposed housing development on Blue Diamond Hill near Red Rock. Clark County District Court Judge Jerry Wiese held that the environmental lobby called Save Red Rock may continue to pursue legal challenges intended to obstruct the project.

The issue has been bouncing around for almost 15 years since homebuilder Jim Rhodes bought the property in 2003. In the interim, state lawmakers and the Clark County Commission have tried to scuttle the plan, but Mr. Rhodes fought back and prevailed in court. In February, the commission finally approved a blueprint for 5,000 homes atop the bluff west of Las Vegas.

But Save Red Rock and its environmental allies remain committed to using the courts to put the brakes on the development. Like the folks in that little New Hampshire town, they prefer to wield the power of the state to run roughshod over a fellow citizen’s property rights, something Mr. O’Rourke described as “wanton, cheap and greedy.”

Mr. Rhodes owns the land. The property is essentially an old gypsum mine and couldn’t remotely be described as “environmentally sensitive.” The BLM doesn’t even want it. As long as Mr. Rhodes adheres to the proper zoning and building codes, he has every right to make productive use of his real estate. At some point, the endless legal maneuvering must run its course.

“If we Blatherboro residents don’t want a golf course and condominium complex,” Mr. O’Rourke concludes, “we can go buy that land and not build them.” Likewise for the folks at Save Red Rock.

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