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$3.2-million checks for everybody?

Some in a Nevada town want to sell 167 square miles of land - and split the money with everyone.

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published May 6, 2006


BOULDER CITY, Nev. - No showgirls here. No neon. No blackjack or slots. People in this desert enclave, 25 miles southeast of Las Vegas, have never been interested in cashing in on its proximity to Sin City.

Until now.

Some local activists say Boulder City, where gambling has been banned for all its 75 years, is sitting on a jackpot: 167 square miles of undeveloped open land in one of the nation's hottest real estate markets.

Their proposal could make millionaires of every man, woman and child in this town of about 15,000 - that is, as long as city officials are wrong when they say the plan would never stand court scrutiny.

(Don't pack your bags, incidentally. Only people living in Boulder City as of March 31 would be eligible, making for a heck of an April fool's joke for anyone who arrived a day late.)

Eldorado Valley, an expanse of dry lake bed flanked by red-rock mountains, is worth $15-billion to $50-billion, the activists say. That, they say, is too much money and responsibility for its City Council to handle.

So, if the land can't be preserved - which they say is their first choice - then let locals share in the profits, they say.

"We're trying to give people a choice," said Sherman Rattner, a silver-ponytailed, Brooklyn native who is leading the group. "If you don't stand up now, it's going to be sold out. And if that's the case let's get the money to the people and let's create something wonderful."

Rattner's Coalition to Protect the Future of Boulder City is circulating two vastly different petitions in its attempt to control the future of the valley, which at 107,000 acres is almost as big as San Jose, Calif.

One plan would require the land to remain untouched, set aside for the preservation of the endangered desert tortoise and public recreation.

The other would force the City Council to sell the property to the highest bidder. Ten percent of the money would pay off the city debt, build a bypass highway around town and fund education. Ninety percent would go to city residents.

In a region surrounding Las Vegas, where an average vacant acre sold for $152,000 in the third quarter of 2001 and $700,000 in the same period in 2005, the sale could yield a check for as much as $3.2-million for every Boulder City "resident of record."

Local officials say Rattner's plan will never survive a legal challenge.

City Attorney Dave Olsen said the land doesn't belong to the residents of Boulder City in the first place.

"The deed that's on file in the county recorder's office says the city of Boulder City, not the people of Boulder City. Boulder City is a corporate entity that exists at the pleasure of the Nevada state Legislature," he said.

[Last modified May 6, 2006, 07:55:38]


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