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LAS VEGAS-The City Council this week will consider placing a referendum on the June ballot that if approved by voters would require voter approval of lease-purchase agreements related to city facilities. Two weeks ago, the City Council unanimously delayed a vote on the referendum while also unanimously authorizing a lease-purchase agreement to fund a new City Hall for as much as $266 million. The City Council is scheduled to consider the referendum for the ballot on Wednesday, March 4.

While hundreds of Union Local 872 members applauded the Council’s authorization of the lease-purchase agreement it was Culinary Local 226 that helped the petitioners gather the necessary signatures to get the referendum that would jeopardize it considered for the ballot. If approved, the referendum would require voter approval before any payments were made under both existing and future lease-purchase agreements.

The delay in the vote provides additional time for the two sides – the City and Culinary Local 226 – to negotiate a settlement whereby the City Council could vote against placing the item on the ballot without a legal challenge from the culinary union or the petitioners. It also gives the city more time to determine if it has a legal basis for denying the referendum a place on the ballot. In 1995 a similar petition was left off the ballot without a challenge after the attorney general at the time determined that the redevelopment plan’s approval was administrative, not legislative, and therefore not legally subject to repeal by voters.

The new City Hall is part of a larger deal with Forest City Development that also would result in a new $1.2-billion casino in the city’s Union Park redevelopment area–the first new casino in downtown Las Vegas since 1979–as well as an additional $1 billion of redevelopment on four blocks south of the proposed new City Hall site. The new City Hall also would open up for redevelopment the existing City Hall site adjacent to the Fremont Street Experience.

As previously reported the land for Forest City’s casino-resort would be provided by the City of Las Vegas in trade for the site of the new City Hall. Known as the Queen of Hearts property, the City Hall site is located on First Street between Lewis and Clark avenues, a short ways east of West Bonneville Avenue and Grand Central Parkway, the intersection where Clark County Government Center, Las Vegas Premium Outlets, World Market Center and the city’s 61-acre, $6-billion Union Park redevelopment all come together.

The proposed disposition and development deal calls for Forest City to develop the new City Hall for the city on a fee basis before it can begin developing the new casino resort. Forest City also owns a majority interest in four blocks immediately south of the new City Hall site that it plans to develop after or concurrent with the casino-resort project.

The overall agreement with Forest City will go before the City Council in March. City officials hope that construction for the new City Hall will start sometime this year.

The subsequent casin0-resort project would total 2.4-million-square-foot and include a 47-story, 1,000-room hotel with approximately 120,000 square feet of gaming and 90,000 square feet of retail in addition to multiple restaurants, meeting rooms and a spa/health club. A city fire station also would be on the site.

The city’s current City Hall covers approximately six acres along Stewart Avenue and is contiguous with 12 acres previously planned for a sports arena. CIM Group is currently planning to rehabilitate and expand the shuttered Lady Luck Casino between the existing City Hall site and the Fremont Street Experience.

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