Oil derrick plans stalled, but project moving on | RecordCourier.com

Oil derrick plans stalled, but project moving on

by Susie Vasquez

Plans for Jethro’s Beverly Hillbillies Mansion & Casino are moving forward, even though plans for a signature oil derrick and sign board are on hold.

Almost $10 million in cash has been lined up for the project and there is a sense of urgency, said project spokesman Don Smit.

“We can’t allow that much money to sit for very long. This is the closest Max (Baer Jr.) has ever been and right now, we have $10 million invested,” he said. “The design team is meeting regularly, but it takes about 10 months to complete construction documents for a project of this scale.”

A tentative schedule for completion of the drawings has been set for July or August. Then building permit applications will be submitted and hopefully, construction will start by September or October 2008, Smit said.

“We’re moving as fast as we can,” he said.

A major variance for height, area and the number of faces on the sign are at the heart of a debate between county officials and developers, scheduled for this week’s Douglas County Board of Commissioners meeting, but that debate could be delayed until January at the developers’ request.

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Developers and county officials have been working on a resolution for weeks concerning the sign, which originally included a 200-foot oil derrick, an increase in the maximum number of sign faces from two to three and an increased in the maximum sign area from 115 square feet to 2,600 square feet.

“We’re not happy with what we have yet and we want this to be right,” said Don Smit, project spokesman.

“We are looking at incorporating the theme and integrating other features to make it more acceptable to commissioners and the community. We want to put this issue behind us but we need to take our time and get it right, for Max (Baer Jr.), the county commission and Douglas County.”

Phase one of Baer’s project includes a 40,000-square-foot gaming area with 800 slot machines and 16 gaming tables, a showroom, cinema complex and five-story, 240-room hotel. An arcade and “Granny’s White Lightnin’ Bar” are just a few of the attractions in almost 300,000 square feet.

Two 143-foot hotel towers are proposed for subsequent phases, but the initial project will be built to a height of 80 feet.

By providing a destination casino resort in addition to name recognition and proximity to local attractions like Lake Tahoe, Baer can compete. Competition raises the bar for everyone, he said in a previous interview.

Variances needed for the project were narrowly approved 4-3 by the Douglas County Planning Commission in July, after a 3-3 decision by that board in June. Planning Commissioner Lawrence Howell was not present for the June vote.

After hours of deliberation, final approvals for zoning changes and a gaming district overlay were sanctioned Oct. 11 by the Board of County Commissioners.

Big George Ventures filed a lawsuit in Douglas County District Court Sept. 7, charging the decision to approve a special use permit and variances for the casino was arbitrary, capricious and not based on substantial evidence, but the two groups have been working together since to reach some sort of resolution.

Nevada Northwest LLC filed a lawsuit in Douglas County District Court Sept. 10, charging the county and its board of commissioners interfered with the company’s right to equal protection when they allowed a zoning amendment, special use permit and variances for the casino.

• Susie Vasquez can be reached at svasquez@recordcourier.com or 782-5121, ext. 211.