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Max Baer’s Hillbillies casino goes to Douglas County commission

Susie Vasquez
Nevada Appeal News Service

Developers are clashing over a proposed Beverly Hillbillies casino and whether a 200-foot oil derrick and two hotel towers are right for Douglas County. The heart of this debate will be aired at Thursday’s meeting of the Douglas County Board of Commissioners.

Big George LLC, which is planning an environmentally friendly 364-unit residential development due east of the casino project, has appealed a planning commission decision earlier this month to grant the special use permit Baer needs for unrestricted gaming.

Both projects are complex and have required numerous variances. Big George has moved through the county’s approval process with little pain, but developer Max Baer’s project has not.

The required zoning map amendment with gaming district overlay and special-use permit both squeaked through the planning commission with 4-3 votes earlier this month.

Variances for a proposed 200-foot oil derrick and readerboard and two 12-story hotel towers were denied. Casino developers are appealing those denials Thursday.

Project spokesman Don Smit said he understands it is difficult to consider variances beyond the county’s present ordinance, but the area has been earmarked for this type of development.

“I graduated from Douglas High School in 1970. I understand how these people feel about the valley,” he said. “But we can’t have an attraction and hide it. If we’re going to bring people from outside our community, we have to have something that sets us apart.”

If the project is approved and all phases are completed, the casino will include a 40,000-square-foot gaming area with 800 slots and 16 tables, a showroom, cinema complex and 740-room hotel in almost 300,000 square feet.

Commissioners will hear a review of the entire casino project prior to the two variance appeals and voting on the zoning change. These four agenda items will be heard after 6 p.m.

This isn’t the first time Baer has tried to build his Beverly Hillbillies casino.

His first attempt, at Stateline in the early 1990s, were squelched when Baer realized the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency wouldn’t allow the required rooms, nor a Beverly Hillbillies-type automobile on the roof. Following zoning approval by Reno officials for his casino at Park Lane Mall in 1999, mall owners Macerich Co. of Santa Monica decided not to sell Baer the property, he said.

Baer subsequently paid $4.3 million in 2003 for a closed Wal-Mart store and parking lot in Carson City, where the casino was to be built. The area is zoned for commercial enterprises, including gaming, but the shopping center’s restrictions forbid gaming businesses.

Baer places the blame on Carson City Supervisor Shelley Aldean, president of Glenbrook Co. and manager of the shopping center. After supporting his casino project and acting as his broker she would not sign off on waiving the restrictions, he said in a previous interview.

In addition to longtime business partners Roger Camras and Robert Miller, Ph.D., Baer is partnering with John King of King Ventures in San Luis Obispo, Calif., and Steven Craig, chief executive officer of Craig Realty Group in Newport Beach, Calif.

• Contact reporter Susie Vasquez at svasquez@recordcourier.com or 782-5121, ext. 211.

If you go

WHAT: Douglas County Board of Commissioners meeting

WHEN: 1 p.m. Thursday

WHERE: Douglas County Administration Building, 1616 Eighth St. in Minden