‘The assembly of land into parcels suitable for modern, integrated development’

The Charleston Antique Mall, at Charleston Boulevard and Interstate 15, closed April 30. It was not voluntary. The state Department of Transportation deployed its powers of eminent domain to seize and destroy the building — originally the local 7-Up bottling plant, then for a time the “Red Rooster” antique mall — to make room for the “Project Neon” widening of I-15.

Business owners Cal and Michelle Tully found a new location, the former Peter Piper Pizza premises next door to Arizona Charlie’s, at 560 S. Decatur.

The brunette is one of about 40 independent vendors who rent space in the mall. The moving men retained by NDOT stacked her wares — in 140 boxes — at the new location on June 19. They made quite a pile.

For months now, vendors have worked mornings, evenings and weekends, building and painting as the Tullys and their contractors dealt with city inspection after inspection — lighting, electrical, you name it — leading up to a July 1 “soft opening.”

On June 26, the City of Las Vegas began running legal ads in the Review-Journal, announcing a July 25 public hearing — 1 p.m. at the new City Hall, 495 S. Main St. — to create in Las Vegas a “second redevelopment area” for the purpose of eliminating “small and irregular lots” facilitating the “assembly of land into parcels suitable for modern, integrated development.”

Guess what? The building next to Arizona Charlie’s, where the Tullys and their vendors have just plowed in hundreds of thousands of dollars for new paint, new lighting, new carpets, new signage — where they’ve just built, in essence, a brand new antique mall? It’s included.

Virtually all the commercial parcels along Charleston Boulevard from the I-15 west, five full miles to Rainbow Boulevard, are included. Two miles of Decatur Boulevard, from Sahara north to Meadows Lane (just shy of U.S. 95) are included. So are all the commercial parcels along Sahara from the I-15 west to Decatur, as well as the Meadows Mall.

In the past, the city has used its powers of eminent domain to condemn and tear down buildings and turn over the land to more favored developers primarily downtown, in the area around Fremont Street and Las Vegas Boulevard, where their kleptocrat efforts have led to such triumphs as Neonopolis — re-dubbed variously NeoFlopolis or NeoNecropolis — where the city still services the debt on a rarely used underground parking garage.

Now, according to the city’s proposed map, the “blighted” and “deficient” properties in need of redevelopment include the Water District headquarters at Charleston and Valley View, the entire Wal-Mart shopping center with its busy fast-food outliers at Charleston and Decatur, Arizona Charlies’s casino and hotel on Decatur, and the aforementioned Meadows Mall.

“We moved on June 19, and they announce they want to seize our new building on the 26th?” the brunette asks. “When I first heard this I didn’t know whether to cry or vomit.”

Both a city council member and City manager Betsy Fretwell insist the city has no current plans to use eminent domain to seize properties in this proposed new “Redevelopment Area 2.” Instead, you’ll hear a lot of happy talk about how they’ll reimburse property owners half their cost if they paint their buildings a pretty new color, or put out some potted plants.

The Pappas family heard the same line about how they’d be able to “participate” in the redevelopment of their property, at Fremont and Las Vegas Boulevard. Downtown property owners submitted plans to fix up their properties, including flowers in pots. The City Council laughed at their naive proposals, instead sending them notices that their properties would be torn down.

Harry Pappas remembers then-Mayor Jan Jones telling his mother at a hearing “Mrs. Pappas, you’ve had your property long enough. It’s time to give it up.”

The city told Carol Pappas’ tenants to get out, thus reducing her rental income to zero, hoping to squeeze her into accepting their dime-on-the-dollar offer. (The city offered $450,000 for a city block zoned for “unlimited gaming” — a potential casino site at the heart of downtown. After 11 years in court, the Pappas family settled for $4.5 million.)

Back in 1993, Carol Pappas received a notice telling her she had 30 days to hire a lawyer to fight the seizure. But the city had done a clever thing. They’d hidden at the back of the sheaf of papers a notice that an “emergency” had been declared, eliminating that 30-day delay. It wasn’t 30 days, but less than two weeks later that the wrecking ball showed up and began knocking down the Pappas block. We ran a photo of Carol Pappas, watching the wrecking ball, on the front page.

On the former Pappas property now stands a big white parking garage, which stood mostly empty for years, till the current owners started leasing out spaces to downtown banks and the courthouse for juror parking. What was the big “emergency” to erect an empty parking garage, Jan Jones — unless it was to stop anyone from putting up a competing casino there, as Bob Snow had tried to do a few years previous, only to be told by some of those same downtown casino barons that he couldn’t because that property “wasn’t blighted”?

Any private developer who wants to assemble some smaller parcels for “a more appropriate use” along Charleston or Decatur is free to do so, today, with cash. How does the city propose to facilitate that process, short of the threat of eminent domain — which our kleptocrat U.S. Supreme Court, in Kelo vs. City of New London, has now held to be OK as a “public use” so long as the new owner promises to pay more taxes?

When I heard Carol Pappas was dying, I took the brunette to meet her and share her Greek cooking, one last time. Her bible now rests beside my bed. Those at City Hall laugh at the mention of her name. They figure everyone’s forgotten. Have we?

What favored developer is even now drooling over the prospect of using city muscle and taxpayer subsidies to set up the Decatur Boulevard Experience LLC?

Has “redevelopment” really worked out so well downtown that everyone else is dying to take part? Or could it be — as I’ve been told — that after 26 years, “redevelopment” has been such a disaster that current downtown property tax revenues are no longer sufficient to keep all the Redevelopment Agency pencil-pushers in jobs, that there’s talk of having to shift $3 million from the city general fund to keep them all employed next year? Might that be a reason to expand the “redevelopment area” and its tax bite?

Betsy Fretwell insists tax revenues from the old and new redevelopment areas “wouldn’t be commingled.” So what are they up to?

5 Comments to “‘The assembly of land into parcels suitable for modern, integrated development’”

  1. Howard R Music Says:

    This sort of thing goes on all the time here in north Texas. The Dallas Observer publishes stories of this nature quite often. It is not unusual for Dallas city councilmen or county commissioners to be under investigation or indictment, if not in prison. Shaking down local businessmen, or using the police to harass business owners who are in competition with enterprises they have an interest in.
    It amazes me, considering all the corruption and regulation, that anyone would invest their money in these cities.

  2. MamaLiberty Says:

    And that, Howard, is what must happen. Atlas must shrug and people must withdraw their consent to it permanently. The only other answer, eventually, is that of The Black Arrow and Hideki… and most of us truly don’t want to go there.

  3. liberranter Says:

    The only other answer, eventually, is that of The Black Arrow and Hideki… and most of us truly don’t want to go there.

    Unfortunately, Mama, we might just ultimately have to. It doesn’t appear that the kleptoligarchs with whom we are having to contend are very amenable to reason and peaceful persuasion.

  4. MamaLiberty Says:

    Liberranter, withdrawing our consent and participation in the insanity does not require any sort of reasonable discourse with the tyrants. It mostly requires having the guts to be self owners, responsible for ourselves and our families without demanding that the tyrants control other people to suit us and give us some of the stolen goods. In the long run, that’s a LOT harder to do than swinging a katana or pulling a bow.

    THAT was the actual message of the book, by the way. 🙂

  5. Lava Says:

    would you please use “the brunette’s” name, from now on?