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Douglas commissioners OK Hillbilly casino

Associated Press

MINDEN – Douglas County commissioners early Friday gave narrow approval to allow Max Baer Jr. to build a hotel-casino in northern Douglas County that includes two 143-foot hotel towers.

But commissioners postponed a decision on variances to allow a 200-foot oil derrick and huge reader board that Baer says is needed to draw visitors to his proposed Beverly Hillbillies resort.

Baer played the dimwitted Jethro Bodine on the 1960s television sitcom.

A public hearing on the project ran well into the night, with the 3-2 vote coming around 1 a.m. Friday.

Approval of the twin towers overruled a nonbinding vote of the Douglas Planning Commission, which denied Baer’s request for the towers.

Baer wants to build his project on a 23-acre site near the Carson City line.

The zoning changes approved early Friday must also pass a second reading before commissioners. Issues surrounding the derrick and zoning are scheduled to be discussed at commission’s Oct. 11 meeting.

Commissioners Kelly Kite, Nancy McDermid and James Baushke voted for the rezoning, special use permit and height variance for the towers. Commission chairman Doug Johnson and David J. Brady voted against the measures.

“I feel good that I didn’t get denied,” Baer said afterward. “I feel better than I did when I was before the planning commission.

“I would much rather have had it been unanimous,” he said. “Like anybody, I want to be liked by everybody, not just three out of five.”

Some Douglas residents told commissioners the derrick would be an eyesore, harming the natural beauty of the area.

Baer and his representatives said they were willing to work with the county’s planning staff to find compromise on the derrick.

During the meeting, opponents and supporters traded comments to commissioners in heated debate.

Many who opposed the project said they lived near the proposed site.

“It’s easy to vote for a project in someone else’s neighborhood,” said Tom Davis, president of the North Valley Concerned Citizens.

Others were surprised the project is close to fruition.

“I never paid much attention to this project because I never figured it would fly,” resident Gary Wheeler said. “I don’t want a casino in my neighborhood. I’ve got a family. You can’t drive anywhere around a casino and say I sure would love to live here. “

Others saw the project as a way to generate needed tax money.

Robert Miller, a partner of Baer’s, told commissioners that the project would generate $4.5 million in one-time fees, $3 million annually to the county by 2014 and $16 million in taxes from 2008 to 2014.

“This would be a source of room tax receipts,” resident David Schumann said. “The county has proposed new taxes. Here’s a way to get them without having to go to the homeowners.”

Baer’s plan for similar projects in Reno and Carson City never panned out.