Developer, city sued in Sparks casino deal
SPARKS (AP) – Opponents of a neighborhood casino backed by developer Harvey Whittemore have filed a lawsuit asking a judge to void a controversial settlement that allowed the project to move forward.
The lawsuit was filed Friday in Washoe District Court by John Ascuaga’s Nugget and 17 citizens who say the settlement allowed the city of Sparks and Whittemore’s Red Hawk Land Co. to circumvent zoning regulations.
The Sparks City Council voted against the Lazy 8 in August, leading developers to sue the city for $100 million.
The city settled the lawsuit a week later by allowing Whittemore and Peppermill Casinos to continue with the project. The settlement – first approved in a secret meeting and later during a public vote – essentially reversed the council vote.
The new lawsuit says the developers’ lawsuit was “trumped up,” and that City Council members didn’t fully consider their legal options. The agreement also circumvented a required master plan amendment, the lawsuit says.
Plaintiffs are seeking an independent judicial review of the settlement, and want to reinstate the council’s 3-2 vote against the casino from Aug. 24.
“My clients have stated throughout these proceedings they just want to see that the proper process is followed,” Nugget lawyer Stephen Peek said in a prepared statement.
“Everyone should play by the same rules, and in this case the city dismissed the fact that a master plan amendment is required to approve the Lazy 8 project.”
Sparks City Attorney Chet Adams said the city had expected the suit.
“They’ve made it very clear to us they are going to do this, along with their other campaigns to attack the settlement,” said Adams, who is facing a recall effort launched by other citizens because they dislike how he handled the Lazy 8 controversy.
Whittemore is trying to move a casino approved but never built in a northeast Sparks housing development to a location about a mile west in the Tierra del Sol development on the east side of Pyramid Highway.
Red Hawk spokesman Carlos Vasquez said he could not comment on the suit because the defendants had not been served as of Friday afternoon.