Old mining equipment is seen near the Blue Diamond Hill Gypsum Mine near the town of Blue Diamond in August 2016.

Las Vegas, NV – A project to build more than 400 single-family homes on Blue Diamond Hill near Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area can move forward. In a unanimous vote — and with opposition from Save Red Rock conservation advocates — the Clark County Zoning Commission voted Tuesday to permit the housing development and approved a tentative map of the project. Gypsum Resources LLC, headed by developer James Rhodes, still has to clear obstacles to develop the gypsum mine where the master-plan community would be, such as conforming to county conditions, securing sewer services and obtaining Bureau of Land Management and the Nevada Department of Transportation approval to build a paved road toward the project off state Route 159. The company also will have to shut down its mining operations before construction begins, and the permits can be pulled if building doesn’t start within four years. During a contentious back-and-forth with consultant Lisa Mayo DeRiso, who represented Rhodes, Commissioner Justin Jones outlined the conditions before he “reluctantly” made a motion to approve the agenda items. Jones later told the Review-Journal that he voted to approve the project because it falls within existing county code. The proposal falls just short of the 700 acres that would have classified it as a major project, which would’ve had to have gone through a “much more laborious” approval process, he noted. “I certainly share the concerns of many of development within Red Rock Canyon,” said Jones, who’s previously been involved with the Save Red Rock nonprofit as its legal counsel.

The board had already approved the 429-home project on 671 acres in August 2021, but the application was sent back to the drawing board after initial plans to build a golf course on the parcel were shut down, DeRiso noted. DeRiso, at the start of the meeting, read from a statement that Gypsum “intends to hold the county responsible for all damages, including for delays, increased costs and any new restrictions.” Questioned by Jones, she said that the developer would adhere to all county conditions. “I think when you really look at it, it’s about property rights,” DeRiso told reporters after the vote. “You purchased a piece of property, and you paid for it, then you should have a right to build on it. And as long as you’re conforming with what the rules are, we should be able to do that.”

The project, initially a proposal to build 3,000 homes, has drawn deep opposition from environmentalists who fear it would destroy scenic views and “desecrate” the land. DeRiso, who used to be involved with Save Red Rock, said its mission has changed. “There’s a point of protectionist and obstructionist,” she said. “And I believe they’ve become more obstructionist than really protecting Red Rock.” The nonprofit had circulated a petition urging the commission to vote against the proposal, writing that “the application not only appears to violate county code and previous legal agreements,” but that the project required the use of the Red Rock Canyon Scenic Byway state route, which “is already struggling with rapidly increasing traffic and hazardous conditions.” Pauline Van Betten, a founding member of the organization, said after the vote that the nonprofit would “make sure” the agreed-upon conditions are adhered to. “I believe that all applicants should follow the law,” she said. “There’s a lot of complexities in the law, and they should all be adhered to, and they weren’t.”

  • Story Originally appeared on Las Vegas Review Journal