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KNIGHTLY: Pahrump’s rural lifestyle preserved by outside forces

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about my hot air balloon ride during the recent festival. What I didn’t talk about was the perspective I was able to take on viewing Pahrump from that vantage point.

As we floated north from Petrack Park, I looked down and saw an undeveloped housing tract that was carved into the desert along Highway 160. The land looked evenly divided, roads that were never paved were cut into the ground. It was interesting to see from the perspective of 600 feet above the Pahrump Valley floor.

If I took a balloon ride over the entire valley, I’d probably find similar tracts, even ones that had been paved but not built out, dotted with unserviced fire hydrants.

On Friday I was a guest on Nevada Public Radio’s weekday show, “State of Nevada,” to discuss how Pahrump is recovering from the recession, mainly from the housing market bubble burst around 2009.

I was on the Las Vegas-based show with Eli Segall, a business reporter with the Las Vegas Sun. Last month, he wrote an article, “Slow comeback from recession leaves Pahrump with lots of wide open spaces,” which discussed, in part, unfinished development around the valley.

There has long been a watchful eye on the housing market in Pahrump due to its proximity to the Las Vegas area.

A large reason the town started to grow in the 2000’s was twofold: Developers were running out and being priced out of land in Las Vegas, and housing prices were so high there that potential homebuyers came over the hump because housing was more affordable. And the buyer usually got a bigger lot than they would have in Las Vegas, Segall pointed out on the show.

But the housing market crash is not viewed as a bad thing for many people living in Pahrump today.

Segall and I both made the argument to show host Joe Schoenmann that there is a large percentage of the 36,000 people living in Pahrump that are fine with the fact that these houses weren’t built, that roads went unpaved.

“I think there is a pull back and forth between people who like to see the community developed and people who have been there a long time who want to be left alone,” I said on the show.

Almost like it had been planned, a woman identifying herself as “Linda from Pahrump” called the show to bolster that viewpoint. She said she moved from the Sunrise Mountain area in Las Vegas to Pahrump because where she had lived had been encroached upon by development and had lost its rural lifestyle.

“When you’re out here (Pahrump), you make your own little world,” she said.

One of the flipsides of wanting to live a rural lifestyle is lack of access to services and good jobs.

A caller named Matt expressed concern about the lack of jobs for disabled veterans and support services for the disabled and seniors in Pahrump.

To me, the calls from Linda and Matt show perfectly the discussions I hear from residents on a regular basis: rural lifestyle preservation against the need for services for the people that do live here.

Good news for the people who want the rural lifestyle is that I don’t believe we’ll see those unfinished housing developments built out any time soon, if ever.

The housing markets in Las Vegas are still holding an excess of inventory, and those prices remain well below all-time highs.

That’s good news for people like Linda, and a challenge for people like Matt.

Arnold M. Knightly is the editor of the Pahrump Valley Times. Contact him at aknightly@pvtimes.com. On Twitter: @KnightlyGrind

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