Despite the Gubernatorial veto of a similar ordinance in California (see below), Las Vegas County Commissioner Erin Kenny has introduced an ordinance that would require retail outlets in Las Vegas larger than 100,000 square feet to separate out food operations that take up more than 2,000 square feet. According to the Las Vegas Review Journal, the proposed ordinance was prompted by a visit last July by union officials who wanted to bar Wal-Mart from opening supercenters in Las Vegas. The company has announced plans for 3 superstores in the valley. “Our ordinance is not asking that there’s never again a Wal-Mart built in our community,” said Roberta West of the United Food & Commercial Workers. “It puts them out of the grocery business, which puts the community in better shape.” Wal-Mart’s only response was confusion. “Quite frankly, we’re a little puzzled,” said one spokesman. “I don’t see where our store is much different from other facilities in the area.” The union counters that Wal-Mart’s lower salaries and inferior benefits would hurt the local economy. Commissioner Kenny says she was primarily concerned that the megastores would allow grocery store smoking and gambling to mix with general retail operations, where state law prohibits cigarettes and slot machines. “Essentially what I really was trying to get at were the smoking and gaming considerations,” Kenny told the newspaper. Commission Chairman Bruce Woodbury said that the proponents of the Kenny ordinance “make a reasonable case about the harmful effects that certain businesses have. But I have to balance that against whether local government ought to be involved in prohibiting such uses.”
In California, business interests argued that the state should keep its nose out of local zoning decisions, and in Nevada the same interests are arguing that local government should keep its nose out of zoning decisions. In Las Vegas, a representative of the Chamber of Commerce argued that Las Vegas is a phenomenal place to start a business, and added: “We would caution any government, especially local governments…that are considering passing regulations that are the antithesis of that spirit.” When it comes right down to it, real estate and development interests do not want any zoning regulations at all. If the state does it — it’s bad. If the County does it — it’s bad. A gambling person might take odds against the Kenny amendment, given the experience with a gubernatorial veto in California. One Arizona developer with 2 superstore proposals for Nevada warned that “many developers in the valley are watching this very closely.” That’s the sound of money talking. Will the County Commissioner’s listen to the voice of the people?