Lawsuit could muddy the waters for Hillbillies casino
Big George Ventures has filed a lawsuit in Douglas County District Court, charging the decision to approve a special use permit and variances for a Beverly Hillbillies casino in north Douglas County was arbitrary, capricious and not based on substantial evidence.
“Douglas County has interfered with Big George’s reasonable investment-backed expectations and deprived Big George of the economically feasible use of its property,” the lawsuit said.
The two projects are adjacent to each other, just east of Highway 395 between Topsy Lane and North Sunridge Drive. Big George’s project, which was approved in early July, includes 254 patio homes, 27 duplexes, and 14 four-unit buildings, with 60 percent of the site retained as open space.
Max Baer’s project includes a 40,000-square-foot gaming area, 43,000-square-foot cinema complex, restaurants, spa facilities and 720 rooms in two 12-story towers. The casino would be located on about 23 acres along the eastern border of a proposed 95-acre commercial development adjacent to the Big George project.
Both Douglas County and its commissioners are named in the suit, which was filed Sept. 7.
According to court documents, Big George’s residential project has suffered damages in excess of $1 million following the approval of a special use permit and height variance for the proposed casino.
Big George spokesman Robbe Lehmann said Douglas County has not been served with the lawsuit. The developer has several months to do that and they hope to drop it before it is served.
“The commissioners that voted in favor of the casino realized that it would have a negative impact on our approved development,” Lehmann said. “They asked us to work with the casino to come up with a different plan that would include some more compatible land uses on our side. We are working with the casino and are optimistic that we can accomplish this goal.
“However, if talks break down, or if the commissioners decide not to approve our new plan, we need to have this lawsuit in place,” he said. “It’s my anticipation that the commissioners will approve our new plan and we will drop the suit.”
Both developers are working with architects in Arizona who have dealt with this type of dilemma, with respect to the creation of buffer zones, Lehmann said.
Douglas County Commission Chairman Doug Johnson said Big George had just 25 days to file the suit and filed on the last day.
“They wanted to keep their options open,” he said.
Big George is asking for damages in excess of $10,000 and denial of the special use permit and zoning map amendment needed for the casino to move forward.
“Since acquiring the property, Big George has spent over $4 million acquiring water rights and hundreds of thousands of dollars on engineers, traffic studies and improvements for the Georgetown Village planned development,” the lawsuit states.
Among the changes sought for the 23-acre casino site were a zoning change from general commercial to tourist commercial, a special use permit to allow unrestricted gambling, a request for variances of the maximum building height from 45 to 143 feet for two 12-story hotel towers, increasing the maximum sign height from 30 to 200 feet and an increase in maximum sign area from 115 square feet to 2,600 square feet.
The requests have been granted for all but the 200-foot oil derrick, but Douglas County’s Board of Commissioners will re-hear the issues on Oct. 11, for final approval.
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