March 14, 2017; Las Vegas Sun
As we all obsess about what is going on nationally, local campaigns are not to be ignored and they too take enormous amounts of vigilance and energy to resolve in favor of communities. In some cases those types of fights extend over years, and that is true here as Daniel Rothberg of the Las Vegas Sun reports:
The story begins almost 250 million years ago, with the ocean and geology and gypsum. It starts with the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area under an ancient sea, at a time when what is now Utah marked the continent’s coastal boundary.
Movements in Earth’s crust eventually pushed the land up, and when water dried in pocketed lakebeds, it left salt and sometimes gypsum.
Millions of years later, humans found the soft sulfate useful to make wallboard, plaster of paris and classroom chalk, and it is still excavated down the road from Red Rock, following a history of mining activity in the region. But opportunities for commercial activity have diminished since the 1960s, when Congress began withdrawing land for public use to protect an area that drew hikers, bikers and climbers to its rust-toned Calico Hills.
Much of that protected landscape became the Red Rock Canyon NCA. About 2 million people visit each year, according to the Bureau of Land Management, which oversees the public resource. Its most prominent sight might be the escarpment, an orange face of Aztec sandstone with bands of peach and reddish-brown. The layers are an inverted geologic map of Nevada, the result of a thrust fault that pushed older rocks — some from the ancient ocean — above the more recently formed strata of rusted red.
So is it any wonder that local nonprofit Save Red Rock is not going to let development happen near Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area in Nevada without a fight? But those fights can take the form of a lot of small battles that require time, resources, legal counsel and, more than anything else, vigilant residents.The latest in a years-long struggle is the organization’s claim that Clark County officials violated an open meetings law.
The violation allegedly occurred at a February 22 zoning meeting when county commissioners and staff discussed a concept plan submitted in 2011 by Gypsum Resources for a master-planned community of over 5,000 homes. The location of the development is against a hill in the Red Rock Canyon area, which is located 17 miles west of the Las Vegas Strip, and in former strip-mining countryside. More than 100 people spoke against the development at that county meeting.
At the meeting, commissioners decided the 2011 concept plan hadn’t expired yet and voted to allow Gypsum Resources to withdraw a 2016 concept plan that had been submitted.
Save Red Rock claims commissioners should not have talked about the 2011 concept plan or allowed the 2016 plan to be withdrawn, because those items were not published on the meeting’s public agenda.
Clark County pursued litigation back in December against both Gypsum Resources and Save Red Rock. The county asked the District Court to decide if a Gypsum Resources concept plan that was submitted in 2011 had expired. The county also requested that the court provide a legal opinion on issues with Save Red Rock, essentially to avoid future litigation regarding developments near the canyon. For example, the county claims they wanted help by a court to determine if arguments from Save Red Rock regarding the development plan from 2011 could be used for future development.
The court balked at providing an opinion and punted the issue back to the county commissioners.
Before the February 22 meeting, the county asserted they would be withdrawing their lawsuit against Gypsum at the end of March, as they felt the point was moot (they contend the 2011 plan had not expired after all).
A court is expected to hear the motion filed by Save Red Rock regarding the open-meetings law in April. The organization has also asked the court to consider an injunction that would block the county from moving the development through the planning process.
Save Red Rock has been resisting since before the term became fashionable with the recent political climate. The organization previously gathered 36,000 signatures to “Keep Red Rock Rural” in addition to calling and writing county officials to support the conservation of the Canyon area.
This story is an illustration of the enormous energy for “small d” democracy that exists all over this country. Communities of concern harness their collective energy to yokes of their own choosing, magic is made, and developers are faced down. – Angie Wierzbicki