Local residents have long lamented the run down condition of the landmark Harley’s Garage on Mesquite Blvd. The City Council paved the way for that to change at its Sep. 8 meeting when they approved a Conditional Use Permit for a new business, Illusive Imports & Domestics, to take up residence at the site.

Built in 1958, the historical Harley’s Garage will undergo some restoration and clean-up as a new automotive repair business, Illusive Imports & Domestics, moves in. Photo by Barbara Ellestad.

Built in 1958, the historical Harley’s Garage will undergo some restoration and clean-up as a new automotive repair business, Illusive Imports & Domestics, moves in. Photo by Barbara Ellestad.

Owners of the new automobile repair shop said they intend to clean up the site, take down the old dilapidated signs, and touch up the building’s exterior paint.

Raul Flores, one of the new owners, told the Council he remembered seeing the building when he was a kid. Built in 1958, Flores said he was excited about opening up the historical building again.

Without much discussion, the Council unanimously approved the permit application with Councilman Kraig Hafen saying, “Let’s get these folks open.”

Much of the Council meeting focused on the status of the Virgin River Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) that has been under active consideration for more than four years.

Richard Secrist, Development Services Director, provided the Council with a timeline of events going back 13 years when the City adopted an ordinance that pursued the development of a HCP. Over the years, several consultants were hired to help write and implement a conservation plan at a cost of millions of dollars. However, no plan has yet been finalized and implemented.

Currently, the City charges developers $500 per graded acre that is deposited into a conservation fund. That’s on top of an additional $550 per graded acre that Clark County charges for its conservation funds. Mesquite is the only city in the county that charges two fees and must abide by two separate conservation plans. All other locations in the county fall under the single county fee and the single Clark County Multiple Species Habitat Plan.

Over the last four years, Secrist has worked with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) to try developing a single plan for the Mesquite area or to abandon a separate plan and work solely under the Clark County plan.

FWS has changed the criteria for the city’s actions several times. Most notably, FWS biologists said in February 2014 that the biggest impediment to recovery of native fish species in the Virgin River came from invasive species coming upstream from Lake Mead and not from any development activity in the Mesquite area.

In June the BLM issued a letter requesting postponement to extend the Virgin River HCP Memorandum of Agreement it had with the FWS until pending legislation in the U.S. Congress that could affect the conservation plan was either passed or denied. The MOA that Mesquite signed onto in 2008 expired on July 31, 2014.

“The preparation of the plan is on hold,” Secrist said saying both the BLM and FWS asked for an extension until July 2016.

Councilman Hafen suggested the FWS come to Mesquite for a public meeting saying “let’s hold them accountable for what they have done and not done on this issue.”

“We had an agreement in December 2014 with FWS and then at the eleventh hour they changed the criteria,” Hafen complained. “We never got an explanation as to why the agreement we had with FWS wouldn’t work.”

Councilman George Rapson echoed that frustration remarking “How do we have an agreement with FWS one day and the next day we don’t? We are dealing with a lot of government bureaucrats that stay in business by creating paperwork. That’s how they grow. They don’t make widgets. They (FWS) need to explain themselves and take a position.”

Dave Ballweg, local businessman, questioned the Council about several closed door meeting it had about the issue. Rapson explained that the meetings were geared towards litigation sessions which are allowed without the public.

The Council unanimously approved a motion to contact the FWS and arrange a public meeting concerning the status of the Habitat Conservation Plan.

In other action, the City Council approved:

–a resolution accepting the relinquishment of easement properties along the North Grapevine Road from NDOT to allow the city to continue maintenance of the land;

–change of ownership of the liquor license and gaming license for the Golden West Restaurant;

–change of ownership of the liquor license and gaming license for Terrible Herbst Inc. who purchased the Mesquite Travel Center on Falcon Ridge Parkway;

–approved a liquor license location change for Sushi Masa;

–Horrock’s Engineering for engineering services for the Virgin River Flood Protection Plan;

–the contract and contract documents with Meadow Valley Contractors Inc for the design-build for I-15 Exit 118 interchange. Construction is expected to begin in late November;

–tabled the appointment of a Mesquite representative on the Technical Advisory Committee who will examine the feasibility of reorganizing the Clark County School District into local school precincts.