By Mark Waite
Judith Holmgren, chairman of Referendum 2012, tried Wednesday to get the Pahrump Regional Planning Commission to change Nye County Code requiring a public vote before removing the 9.5-mile buffer between correctional facilities and residences.
Nye County Deputy District Attorney Charles Watkins advised the RPC, “this is simply not the correct forum to do this. The state Legislature handed this board down certain powers and the board is just not permitted to hand powers over to the people at will.”
Watkins suggested Holmgren go to the state Legislature to change the law.
“In other words, we can’t recommend approval because we can’t give away rights,” RPC Chairman Terry Hand said.
Holmgren said Nye County Commissioner Dan Schinhofen suggested she contact the RPC to word an item so county commissioners can vote on it.
“Apparently, they thought people involved with zoning would better word the item upon which they wish to take a vote. That was the understanding by which we were directed to place this before you,” Holmgren said.
County commissioners declined to place that question requiring a public vote before removing the 9.5-mile buffer zone on the Nov. 6 ballot after Referendum 2012 gathered 1,655 signatures on a petition.
District Attorney Brian Kunzi said he considered the five petition drives by the group initiatives to create new law, that would require the signatures of 15 percent of the people who voted in the last election, or 2,168 signatures. A referendum to change existing law requires the signature of only 10 percent of those voters or 1,445 signatures, a threshold met by all five petitions.
Other ballot questions the group wanted would ask for a vote on Yucca Mountain, preventing the gathering of wild horses, requiring a public vote before any action on Pahrump incorporation and the only question county commissioners agreed to put on the ballot, whether to dissolve the Pahrump Town Board and make it advisory only.
Butch Clendenen, who lives near the federal detention center at 2280 N. Kitty Hawk Dr., said residents living in that area were unaware when county commissioners removed the 9.5-mile, or 50,000 foot, buffer zone that enabled Corrections Corporation of America to build the Nevada Southern Detention Center which opened in October 2010.
County commissioners in 2007 removed the 9.5-mile buffer zone, but reinstated it in 2010 by a 3-2 vote after Bob Howard made a request to the RPC. When it went to the county commission, commissioners Butch Borasky and Gary Hollis voted against reinstating the buffer, without commenting at the meeting.
After commissioners decided not to place the buffer zone question on the ballot this year, Holmgren made another unsuccessful attempt under public comment at a September county commission meeting. Commissioner Joni Eastley didn’t get an answer on whether any other detention facilities were coming into the area.
Detention center opponents pointed to communities that eventually got numerous correctional facilities like Florence and Eloy, Arizona. Schinhofen commented he didn’t want residents voting on every decision commissioners make.
Holmgren’s letter to Nye County Planning Director Steve Osborne charged officials in Nye County, desperate to attract jobs “were induced to host industry of last resort” depressing real estate values in a significant radius around them.
The detention center led to the industrialization of East Mesquite Avenue, with recycling facilities and an expansion of Joe’s Sanitation that she charged caused Kim Clendenen to have vomiting, headaches and require breathing treatments.
Earlier in the meeting, the Clendenens objected to a conditional use permit that allowed Pahrump Valley Disposal to build three shade structures over concrete slabs, to provide protection for workers at a metal salvage and recycling operation at 1470 E. Mesquite Ave. The property is in a heavy industrial zone.
Butch Clendenen said he hears the noise from another car-crushing, recycling operation less than a quarter-mile from this operation. He said recycling metal under the shade structures would create an echo chamber.
Hand said Pahrump Valley Disposal wasn’t putting up a metal building, just shade structures.
“The sound, with all due respect to Mr. Clendenen, I don’t think it’s going to be enhanced,” said Robert Grosbeck, a consultant for Pahrump Valley Disposal. “I can’t speak for the competitor up the street but I assure you we do everything to be good neighbors and I think we demonstrated that in all the years we operated there. If there is an issue we’re willing to sit down and talk.”