Windsor Park, a historic African-American neighborhood neglected by North Las Vegas after many of its residents abandoned their sinking homes, owes the area’s current popularity with developers to a Trump administration tax policy designed to benefit the rich.
Developer Golden Welch said the city’s designation of acreage adjacent to Windsor Park as an Opportunity Zone opened financing avenues “that normally wouldn’t be available for these types of developments.”
“The Opportunity Zone requires long term rental type development which cannot be single-family residential or similar uses,” Welch, who was seeking a zoning change of the land from residential to industrial, told the North Las Vegas Planning Commission.
“We have some opposition here as you can see,” Welch said, referring to the residents holding signs encouraging commissioners to deny the project. “We were required to have one neighborhood meeting. We had three. I want this group to know I have nothing but respect for them. We were treated with kindness and respect and I hope they feel the same from us.”
City staff recommended approval of the zoning change sought by the developers.
“Based on the fact that for 20 years the city has not allowed residents to improve their land, on its face, it appears as though there is an inherent bias against residents, and you are now doing the exact opposite and allowing developers to come in and develop,” resident Joseph Abraham told commissioners. “The city placed restrictions on permits to prevent repairs. On the surface, it seems the city has kept homeowners in a dilapidated state to make the case that the land was irreparable, unusable and the soil would not sustain development. Yet we have a developer here today and the city says ‘Oh it’s OK, and we’ll move forward.’”
‘Right development’ wanted
Dr. Vincent Richardson, who was raised in Windsor Park, says it now “looks like a wasteland.”
“We’re not against development,” Richardson said. “We want the right development. Our community has been asked several times ‘What kind of development do you want?’ We want residential and other kinds of development because it’s scientifically possible to do it.”
But Welch, the developer, said remediating the soil to build residences would make the homes too expensive for the market.
“We feel that while an apartment development is a proper development under an Opportunity Zone, we feel like this location, with its proximity to the airport, that M1 (light industrial) is the proper use of this property,” Welch told commissioners. “There’s burgeoning demand for this type of product which is currently experiencing less than 3 percent vacancy in the market.”
“We believe this is going to provide significant employment opportunities,” Welch told residents and commissioners. “We plan on coming back with another application for some commercial uses, hopefully restaurants, a strip center with nail salons or hair salons or coffee shops, or those things that are hopefully going to add services to this area of the city.”
Welch also promised a buffer of acreage with “tender uses” between warehouses and CVT Gilbert Elementary School, which borders the land.
Questions of eminent domain
“It was stated at the neighborhood meeting there was a new soil study,” Assemblywoman Dina Neal, who represents North Las Vegas, told commissioners. “According to the article today in the Current, it said that there is no new geological study.”
Staff and the developers confirmed no new study has been undertaken.
Neal suggested North Las Vegas could open itself to legal action by approving the project.
“They (residents) are concerned if the 86 acres is given, there may be eminent domain.”
In the 1990s, the city agreed to give money toward a new home to homeowners who voluntarily relinquished their sinking property. But it was voluntary. A mandate to leave would have amounted to a government “taking” under eminent domain law.
Now, the residents are arguing the city is attempting to force them out.
“My real question I have is why haven’t you been allowed to do these things,” Commissioner George Warner asked the residents before casting his vote in favor of the developer. “This is very frustrating to me that you haven’t been allowed to build walls around your churches and homes.”
City staffers cited a 1991 city resolution prohibiting repairs and improvements in Windsor Park.
Councilwoman Pam Goynes-Brown, who attended the meeting, told the Current that city crews were already sprucing up Windsor Park.
The developers told commissioners they didn’t want to be responsible for the city’s neglect of the neighborhood and what they considered the residents legitimate complaints.
William Richardson grandparents long ago purchased a home in Windsor Park. He can’t understand why residents weren’t allowed to improve their properties and build equity to pass on to their families.
“Quite frankly, that vexes me and I don’t understand the purpose,” Richardson said. “There won’t be a neighborhood if this comes in. The neighborhood will go away and then all we’ve got is gentrification. They’ll come in and swoop up the rest of the homes and sell them at a major profit.”
Despite voicing their concerns about the city’s treatment of residents, commissioners approved the zoning change unanimously.