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Sun City Beltway interchange is elder abuse?

INTERCHANGE UPDATE — This just in from the R-J news headline service …

        "The Clark County Commission this morning (8/19/08) directed its public works department to move forward with opening an interchange at Lake Mead Boulevard and the Las Vegas Beltway. The city of Las Vegas now wants to make improvements to Lake Mead before the interchange is opened. It will be at least six weeks before the interchange is open." 

*****

Perhaps this is a lesson in being careful when you send e-mail to the publisher of Nevada’s largest newspaper. It might get published. Or, perhaps, it is a lesson in democracy and an informed electorate at the grassiest of the grassroots level. Take your pick. But, as the publisher of your favorite newspaper, people send me e-mail. I read most of it. Sometimes I pass it along to "The Hive" for further comment. Today, I pass along a very, very long e-mail from a resident of Sun City who outlines the case against the Lake Mead Parkway and I215 Beltway interchange.

In regards to a good, old-fashioned discussion on the topic, let’s start with this statement:

"Many Sun City residents are in their eighties and nineties. The Interchange will create the most dangerous parkway in the Valley. People are going to be killed or injured. Many would not have purchased their homes in Sun City Summerlin had they known with the City, County, Hughes and Del Webb knew as early as 1989. The information the elderly needed to make sensible retirement decisions was withheld from them. The issue is and always was due process (42 U.S.C. § 1983), environmental law, tort law and elder abuse law."

So, completing this highway interchange is "elder abuse"…really? Then, if we don’t build it, is it "child abuse"?

I make no judgments (other than that one wisecrack). Here’s what looks to me like the complete (though rambling) case against the interchange from one Sun City resident. I vouch for none of it. Any discussion?

NOTES RE: LAKE MEAD PARKWAY-CO 215 INTERCHANGE –
SOON TO BE THE MOST DANGEROUS PARKWAY IN THE VALLEY

1.    The issue is not convenience. The issues are compliance with a civil contract, federal environmental law compliance, due process, timely full disclosure, proper notice and candor, or the lack thereof.

2.    There is no environmental impact statement (EIS) for the Northern and Western Beltway or the Lake Mead Parkway, CO 215Interchange. An EIS is a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requirement for a federally funded highway project or a project that includes federal lands, federal rights-of-way or connections with federally funded interstate highways.

3.    The no federal funding statements of the County while omitting the other circumstance that trigger NEPA EIS compliance are at best, misleading.

4.    The County was approved for $3.8 million dollars in federal funding for the preparation of a 1992-1996 EIS Tier 1 EIS. Approximately $650,000 was funded. The County claims it was paid back without citing any authority for paying federal funds back as a means of avoiding or evading NEPA compliance.

5.    Changes in environmental circumstances that also can trigger an environmental EIS process requirement include the drought of a millennium or bisecting an over 55 community, mean age 73, golf cart permissible community with heavy traffic, all without due process.

6.    The Lake Mead Parkway, leading from CO 215, is steeply downhill, winding with blind curve egress and ingress, and narrow. Those in the area will be faced with air pollution, noise pollution, more crime (a faster, very efficient getaway) against those who defend themselves the least, accidents with loss of life or injury including vehicle-golf cart side street accidents, damage to property and an eventual condemnation of property because of the issues listed. Moving is not easy for the aged.

7.    An EIS process addresses the above issues and gives those affected important rights. Without that federal process, residents lose important administrative and legal rights.

8.    The interchange is currently a road to nowhere. It is being built so that a large number of new homes, commercial establishments and one or two casinos can be built West of CO 215. There is developer money in the interchange. No one in a responsible position has revealed and certified as true and correct, where all the money for the Interchange came from.

9.    The water for the hook-ups for the above will come from water that would normally be available to current Valley residents who are facing higher and higher water prices as a means of rationing. The water issue alone requires an EIS.

10.    If the County had operated in a more conservative manner, it would have completed a Northern and Western Beltway EIS that includes all of its interchanges. Two or more interchanges in the Northern Beltway have commenced NEPA required EIS processes. The withdrawal was reckless.

11.    The current controversy over the Lake Mead Parkway, CO 215 Interchange is the result of the County not being more candid regarding its environmental responsibilities.

12.    Many Sun City Summerlin residents drive only in the local area. They stay away from heavily trafficked areas. The Interchange is a traffic knife through the heart of a retirement community. The community was sold as a quiet, suburban area for retirements. Statements to the effect that all purchasers were fully informed regarding the Beltway and the Interchange and corresponding environmental issues at the time of purchase is false, particularly Del Webb is false. The Del Webb display model showed a narrow, black line designating a County road where the Beltway now is. Sales personal did not discuss a Beltway or an Interchange even when questioned.

13.    Many Sun City residents are in their eighties and nineties. The Interchange will create the most dangerous parkway in the Valley. People are going to be killed or injured. Many would not have purchased their homes in Sun City Summerlin had they known with the City, County, Hughes and Del Webb knew as early as 1989. The information the elderly needed to make sensible retirement decisions was withheld from them.

14.    The issue is and always was due process (42 U.S.C. § 1983), environmental law, tort law and elder abuse law.

15.    The County misled the community regarding the construction plans for the Interchange and then proceeded with maximum speed in order to catch the community off guard.

16.    The Interchange is a vivid demonstration that when good planning, road safety and community interests clash with development interests, community interests are not a serious consideration.

17.    The rarest environmental document in the Valley is one that includes serious consideration of the drought of the millennium.

18.     Evidence that the County knew it had a duty to complete a required Tier II EIS that the County did not do exists as follows. On February 7, 1996, the Clark County Board of Commissioners entered into a Development Agreement Between The County of Clark and Howard Hughes Properties, Limited Partnership (Summerlin Master Plan), that all citizens may rely upon. "8.03 Beltway Design. County agrees to cooperate in the design of the Beltway through the Planned Community as set forth in this Section 8.03. … 8.03(b) will use its best efforts to initiate the Tier II Environmental Impact Study (‘EIS’) for the Western Beltway from Tropicana Avenue to Lake Mead Boulevard by April 1, 1996 and complete the EIS to the point of initiation of public hearings by the end of the year 1996. … 8.03(c) … County will substantially adhere to the design criteria except where inconsistent with State or Federal requirements. … 8.04(f)The location of the Beltway and Interim Beltway Road is generally described on Exhibit H and will be specifically defined by the Tier II EIS. … 8.05 Interchanges. … County’s obligation to build interchanges is contingent on the availability of funding a solely determined by the County Commission, the separate approval of the County Commission for construction of each interchange, the approval of NDOT and the fulfillment of applicable state and federal standards, rules and regulations. "

19.    A Tier II EIS does not exist and never existed. A Tier 1 EIS corridor study did exist. A Tier 2 environmental process was promised to the residents in Tier 1. The County, State and Federal agencies involved were put on notice in writing that the Tier 1 EIS included 162 instances where issues raised in Tier 1 would be answered in Tier 2.

20.    Instead of answering the 162 issues, the County withdrew the completed and approved (1996) Tier 1 EIS in 1997. The U.S. Department of Transportation acceded to the withdrawal request with a Federal Register ("FR") notice. The withdrawal was based on the premise that there was no federal money in the Northern and Western Beltway. That statement is both false and misleading. See, 2-5, above.

21.    Clark County ignored the EIS compliance requirement it acknowledged in the 1996 development contract with Hughes Properties L.P. Beneficiaries of that contract include the residents of the Las Vegas Valley. We the people are not separate from our County government. County claims that it had no duty to comply with the NEPA EIS requirements on basis of false and misleading denials are a shocking lapse of judgment and a failure to allow due process.

22.    Without a fully completed and federally approved EIS, the Interchange should not open.

23.    There is federal appeals court precedent for an order to tear down an interchange where the agency with the responsibility, failed and refused to comply with NEPA.

24.    There is a current case in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals regarding the issues listed above. There is a Defendants’ representation affirming that the Interchange would not open before 2010 in the District Court record. That Court Record is now before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Going two ways on the same issue is risky business.

25.    Concerns over the alleged County cost to build the Interchange should make written requests to the County Commission for the grounds for not complying with NEPA, signed by those responsible for the decision not to comply. The County claimed it dot not simply forgo federal money for the Interchange, but also for the entire Northern and Western Beltway. That should be the concern of everyone in the Valley. When did Clark County provide full disclosure of that incredible decision? Where does the authority come from to forgo that kind money? Those who want to open the Interchange are in the right church but the wrong pew. Please request that the explanation be in writing signed by those who are responsible.

Robert W. Hall, Sun City Summerlin resident, President, Nevada Environmental Coalition, Inc. and former City of Las Vegas appointed representative to the former Clark County Beltway Committee. 360-3118, FAX 360-3119, rwhkc@earthlink.net.

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