Beverly Hillbillies sign fails first test

Developers of the Beverly Hillbillies Mansion and Casino in north Douglas County unsuccessfully tried to replace a 143-foot-tall oil derrick with a 109-foot-tall, tulip-shaped sign on Tuesday.

The Douglas County Planning Commission voted 6-0, with Vice Chairperson Rick Ross absent, to deny a variance request that would have allowed a change in the maximum sign height of 30 feet to 109 feet and a change in maximum sign square footage from 115 square feet to 2,423 square feet per sign face.

"The sign is too big for Douglas County," said planning commissioner Lawrence Howell. "It needs to be smaller."

In comparison, Douglas County Principal Planner Harmon Zuckerman said Bodine's Casino's new sign in Carson City, just north of the proposed Hillbillies casino, is 42 feet high with a 270-square-foot sign face.

"One of the qualities that Douglas County residents hold dear is the relative lack of garish and overly-large signs obscuring the natural landscape," Zuckerman wrote in his findings.

Owners of property near Topsy Lane complained that the sign would not only wreck their view, but that the LED reader board would cause light pollution.

"It would be 300 feet from the sign to my residence," said Greg Malavazos. "With 24-hour illumination, I would never again see darkness or the stars."

Project spokesman, Don Smit, argued that the $140 million, 270,000-square-foot hotel/casino warranted a large sign.

"You've designated North County as a place of economic growth, and we've bought into that," said Smit. "If advertising wasn't important, why would Coke spend millions of dollars on the Super Bowl?"

Smit argued that because the natural grade of the sign site was 20 feet below the level of Highway 395, a height variance was justified.

"I agree that variances exist to make everything an even playing field," said planning Chairwoman Margaret Pross, "But adding 20 feet to the maximum height of 30 is different than asking for 109 feet."

In July, the planning commission denied a variance request for a 200-foot oil derrick with three sign faces. Developer, Project One, LLC, appealed the decision to the county commission level. On Jan. 3, county commissioners denied a variance request for a 143-foot version of the oil derrick sign.

"This is not Las Vegas," said planning commissioner Jim Madsen. "This is Carson Valley."

The casino is the invention of Max Baer Jr., the actor who played Jethro in the 1960s CBS television show, "The Beverly Hillbillies."

The first phase of the project, for which zoning changes have already been approved, would feature a 40,000-square-foot gaming area with 800 slot machines and 16 gaming tables, a cinema complex and a five-story, 240-room hotel.


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