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Will Las Vegas grow outward or upward?

paris las vegas
Posted at 3:31 PM, Nov 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-13 15:26:19-05

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — What started as a watering hole in the middle of the Mojave Desert has become one of the fastest-growing communities in the United States. People living here say it’s easy to understand why.

“We have good people, good weather and exceptional opportunities unlike anywhere else in the world,” says Michael Naft, Clark County commissioner for District A.

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“You have no state income tax,” Carolyn Goodman, Mayor of Las Vegas, says. “24/7 greatest entertainment, great food, great dining, great outdoor sports and now major. I mean, how can I not sell this great community? It is simply electrifying.”

It’s that electricity that is projected to boost the population past 3 million by 2035, according to the UNLV Center for Business and Economic Research Projects. But as the community welcomes more people, we face some big questions. Where do we put them? How do we grow? Do we spread out, or do we build up?

“Why not both?” Commissioner Naft says. “Let's look at opportunities to increase density in certain areas where that's appropriate, but I think there's also no doubt you can see the way the community is growing, and that is we happen to have landed on the outskirts.”

Commissioner Naft says the Las Vegas valley faces some challenges in spreading out because it is surrounded by mountains and federally owned land.

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“There's still available land in the southwest, and we certainly seeing a lot of that growth,” says Justin Jones, Clark County commissioner for District F.

According to Commissioner Jones, the southwest is booming, but it could run out of space within the next 10 years.

“I think that we need to grow up, and that means that places like downtown and Spring Mountain and other places, we can have more compact development like you've seen in other jurisdictions that have also faced growth,” Jones says.

Carolyn Goodman, the mayor of Las Vegas, says downtown Las Vegas is already seeing success as an area that is building up.

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“It's become an exciting place and not only exciting for the small businesses, but for the investors in these high rises that are going up and low and mid-rise that are mixed-use,” Goodman says.

The mayor says she also sees an opportunity to expand the city northwest thanks to a deal with the Paiute tribe. The agreement gives the city of Las Vegas the ability to develop 940 acres for a master-planned community on land east of the reservation, according to the city’s website.

“We are moving into a whole technological development in that area, working with the Paiutes on their land with workforce development, housing development and mixed-use development, but with them as a partnership. And so, trading off different pieces of land so we can do an industrial park, but also a pretty large development,” Goodman says.

The northwest isn’t the only area in the valley expected to see a boom over the next decade. Henderson expects to add close to 70,000 new residents over the next decade, with the largest growth taking place in West Henderson and Cadence on the eastside of Henderson. Henderson’s City Planner Richard Derrick released a statement to 13 Action News saying in part, “The new corporate headquarters of the Las Vegas Raiders, the soon to be completed home of the Henderson Silver Knights and new developments by businesses such as Google and Haas Automation show that Henderson continues to diversify as it grows.”

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Meanwhile, on the other side of the valley, North Las Vegas is set to add more than 100,000 residents by 2030.

Projected population:

2020                           432,588
2025                           518,624
2030                           566,605

“We will be the fastest growing city in Nevada.” John Lee, the mayor of North Las Vegas, says the city’s space is attracting manufacturing and warehousing businesses, bringing new workers to the valley who need a place to live. Lee says North Las Vegas is ready for them. “We have enough land in North Las Vegas for many, many years for homes. And with the jobs that I'm bringing in, we will fill those new homes with people working in North Las Vegas,” Lee says.

While there may be land for many years, Mayor Lee admits that in the next 20 years, even North Las Vegas could run out of space to expand and may start building up.

So, it begs the question: As the valley starts to fill up, where do we go next? Go south, says one commissioner.

“I see no doubt the supplemental airport is a huge opportunity,” Clark County Commissioner Michael Naft says a proposed airport in Jean could spur growth south of the valley, close to the California Border.

Bug to our west, Nye County officials says they believe one day more people will be traveling over the hump to Pahrump.

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“I definitely think it's point to be a bedroom community to Las Vegas,” says Brett Waggoner, the planning director for Nye County.
Waggoner says a lot of people are moving to Pahrump from Las Vegas for the same reasons he did: wide open space, affordability, and a reasonable commute. Waggoner says developers are starting to take notice, as well.

“We are definitely getting a lot of interest now from a lot of the public builders from the Vegas side of the mountain. Coming out here is because land and, you know, stuff is becoming scarce on that side,” Waggoner says.

There is a bill on the table, that could free up some land on the Vegas side of the mountain. The Southern Nevada Economic Development and Conservation Act was introduced into the U.S. Senate by Nevada Senator Catherine Cortez Masto. The bill would protect more than 2 million acres of sensitive lands, but also foster the expansion of tribal trust lands to be used for affordable housing and economic development.

Several of the leaders we spoke with say while they look forward to more development in their areas, there are still concerns that need to be addressed, such as water and infrastructure.

"While it might seem like we've got a great big desert out there to develop, it may be inappropriate and environmentally it may be unsound given our limited resources. So, being very strategic about every single piece of land that we develop that we zone, that we plan through our offices of comprehensive planning and land use is certainly something that's important,” Commissioner Naft says.

Our series, “Las Vegas: Meadows to Metropolis,” looks to answer pressing questions about how rapid growth is impacting Las Vegas. Tune in to 13 Action News at 6 p.m. throughout the month of November for in-depth reporting on the issue.