Planners OK Minden casino | RecordCourier.com

Planners OK Minden casino

Jeff Munson, Staff Writer

Douglas County planning commissioners agreed Tuesday to change its master plan to allow a proposed hotel, casino, RV park and housing development near the intersection of highways 395 and 88.

The developers, Nevada Northwest LLC, resubmitted their proposal after Minden residents and nearby Winhaven subdivision homeowners criticized the development, saying it would bring increased traffic to the area and disrupt their quality of life.

After nearly three hours of public comment, the advisory board to the Douglas County Commission voted 5 to 1 in favor a master plan amendment and site specific plan for the development.

The plan now moves to the Douglas County Commission who will hear it Nov. 1.

“It would be hypocritical to say I live in the state of Nevada and couldn’t support 21,000 square feet of a gaming establishment,” said Planning Commissioner Rick Gardner. “Being raised in this area, it makes no sense to say no more gaming.”

The emotionally charged debate began last July when Nevada LLC, a combined partnership of Tom Bruce and Reno casino magnate Ferenc Szony proposed the project, located near the junction of highways 395 and 88, on the west side of the Winhaven subdivision, east of Highway 395, south of Muller Lane and north of Lucerne Drive.

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The project would be built over 20 years. Plans calls for 260 hotel rooms, a 21,000- square-foot casino, 800,000 square feet of commercial space, an RV park, 378 homes, a community park and open space.

Planning commissioners initially rejected the project, saying they wanted to see the site specific plan.

Commission Chairman Jay Lather said that while he still has some “serious concerns” about the project, he sees the alternative – strip commercial development – as a far worse threat to the county.

Economically speaking, the town of Minden and Douglas County stand to make millions from generated tax revenue, said Rob Anderson of Minden-based Anderson Engineering, which represents the developers.

Direct benefit to Douglas County could be as much as $11.4 million annually, Anderson has said, with one-time tax benefits of $1.6 million to the school district.

Planning commissioner Michael Hayes was the sole member who voted against it.

The problem, Hayes said, is that casinos create impacts and consume county resources. He said the county may become too reliant on casinos in the future as there are more in the works for both the northern and southern ends of the county.

“The people who have hitched their wagon to the casino, like Washoe and Clark County, there is a tradeoff,” Hayes said. “I’m just not in favor of it.”

Traffic issues were among the major sticking points with many nearby homeowners. The developers re-configured roads into the development, taking Lantana Drive out of the picture as a main artery to the development.

Instead, traffic signals will be installed at Muller Lane and the signal at Highway 88 will be modified. A signal at Lucerne Street is up in the air with the Nevada Department of Transportation, Anderson said.

Resident Terry Faff said the gambling pie in the Valley is only so big and that any new gaming facility would only share a portion.

Faff said that if the project comes to fruition, it won’t be a “wonderful dream project” that has been presented, but would likely fail.

“How many more buses can you bring from Bridgeport or Lee Vining?” Faff asked. “There’s only so much for the extra in casino taxes.”

Resident Victoria Joncas said she is concerned about the size and scope of the project, the proximity to the high school and the kinds of clientele it may attract.

“It does look nice on paper and it does look like a Disneyland to me. All that’s missing here are the roller coasters,” she said.

Another issue facing the development is the proximity of Douglas High School to the development. Many who spoke against the project at the hearing said the development sits too close to the school.

Commissioner Mark Neuffer said while he doesn’t like the idea of the casino sitting near the school, he would like to see the developer move it farther away.

Anderson said from the casino to the school building structure, the distance is 1,600 feet.

Still, Neuffer said that he doesn’t think of the entire project as casino-driven. He said he likes the planning that goes along with it, including the multifamily residential homes done in a neo-traditional style, as well as a proposed park.

“There’s not many chances that come around with this kind of quality,” Neuffer said.

Commissioner Valida McMichael said she, too, was glad to see the multifamily residential component addressed, saying that it was the main reason she voted against the project when it was first proposed.

“The specific plan we have here protects (multifamily residential). It’s something that is so rare in this community,” McMichael said.