Ballot Question No. 1, the vote to change the controlled-growth ordinance in minor ways, has received the bulk of the debate in this election cycle, even though Ballot Question No. 2 might have far greater impact if passed. Question 2, the vote to consider thinking about extending Buchanan Boulevard south to the Interstate 11 bypass, has gone almost unremarked on even though it could have a massive impact on commercial development patterns. So far I haven’t found a single candidate or public official willing to acknowledge support for the Buchanan extension.
I interviewed a wide cross-section of City Council candidates, current members, planning commissioners and local wheeler-dealers. The pattern that emerged was remarkable: I could find no one willing to openly support Question No. 2.
Mayor Rod Woodbury and City Council candidate Kiernan McManus simply refused to discuss it. Many, like City Council candidates Cam Walker and John Milburn and Planning Commissioner Cokie Booth, are openly opposed. A remarkable number of others pretend to be uncommitted, but you can’t vote uncommitted on Election Day. If no one supports the measure, why is it on the ballot? How did it get there?
The short answer is Councilman Rich Shuman made the motion to put the measure on the ballot, and Councilwoman Peggy Leavitt seconded the motion. When interviewed, Leavitt called herself undecided, but when pressed said she would vote no. Planning Commissioner Fritz McDonald and City Council candidate Warren Harhay danced the same dance, with the same result.
Pressed for an explanation, McDonald, Leavitt and outgoing Councilman Duncan McCoy paint a similar picture: Business interests are pushing the extension/interchange, while nearby residents oppose it. It may be that the only reason Question 2 is on the ballot is to satisfy the expansion hopes and dreams of downtown business interests.
Pros and cons
Why are people for it?
■ It could provide an extra opportunity for regional travelers to exit into Boulder City and spend money
■ It could provide an extra “escape route” over the hill to Henderson when Nevada Highway is backed up
■ It could provide an alternate exit from Boulder City for residents in the Del Prado area
■ It could provide a place for local businesses to create a second or third location
■ It would increase property values and stimulate business on Buchanan
■ It could provide transit routes for emergency vehicles. The planned emergency exits will not take traffic to and from town except by going the long way around.
Why are people against it?
■ It would increase traffic on Buchanan, annoying residents in the area
■ It would increase traffic on Georgia as well, perhaps because of routing by Google Maps
■ It would cost money to build that has not been sourced. Many fear the cost of the studies and eventual construction would fall on Boulder City, though this is debatable
■ It would induce development at the interchange and north along I-11 toward the junction of I-11 and U.S. Highway 95
■ It would take at least five years of planning to make it happen
■ It is seen as premature; the need cannot be established, some believe, until the bypass is open.
McCoy, echoed by Booth, points out that this issue was voted on once before by residents a decade or so ago and was defeated handily. This is the reason the interchange was not considered when the I-11 planning began. Now, McCoy points out, it would take five or six years of planning to make an interchange happen.
It’s unusual bordering on unprecedented for the preference of perhaps 4,000 voters to determine street and highway routes, but that’s what is happening in Boulder City on June 13.
How will you vote? You should investigate both ballot propositions thoroughly before you make your decisions.
Dale Napier is a published author/editor, sometimes journalist and former political consultant. He was an original organizer of the Boulder City Community Alliance but has moved on.