Hotel-casino plan rejected in Sparks |

Hotel-casino plan rejected in Sparks

SPARKS (AP) – The Sparks Planning Commission has denied plans for a hotel-casino on Pyramid Highway proposed by developer Harvey Whittemore and Peppermill Casinos.

In a 4-3 vote late Monday, the commission rejected plans for the $100 million Lazy 8 resort.

Backers said they will appeal the decision to the Sparks City Council, and the courts if necessary.

“I’m confident city council will see the merits of our position,” Whittemore said after the meeting.

Whittemore argued a 1994 entitlement to build a casino at his Wingfield Springs development east of Pyramid can be moved to Pyramid Highway, where he plans to sell land to Peppermill for the development.

Area residents opposed the project, arguing the casino would ruin their neighborhood.

Executives with John Ascuaga’s Nugget also were happy with the decision.

“It is a very emotional issue – people get upset,” said Michonne Ascuaga, chief executive of the Nugget, adding her hotel-casino was not opposed to all new casinos in Sparks.

“We’re all about building tourism. What we want to stay focused on is the land-use issue,” she said.

Whittemore’s 20-acre project would include 200 hotel rooms, a movie theater, arcade, retail and restaurants.

He told commissioners the location was changed because Pyramid Highway can handle more traffic than Vista Boulevard. He said he still could build at Wingfield Springs if the council denies the Lazy 8.

Whittemore told commissioners he planned to donate his profits from the venture to the University of Nevada, Reno and that public comments on the Lazy 8 have offended him.

“I’m sick and tired of people saying it’s about me – it’s not,” he said.

Whittemore also has agreed to give the city $300,000 for affordable housing and is proposing to build a 4,800-square-foot community services building for the city.

At an earlier hearing on the project, a Nugget lawyer said the donation could be perceived as a bribe for the city’s endorsement of the project.

“Are we going to find ourselves in a position where entitlements are for sale in the city of Sparks?” lawyer Doug Flowers asked commissioners at a July 6 hearing.

“If people who bought houses five, 10 years ago read every public document, they would not have known it was possible to have a casino there.”

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