“It’s all Linda Young’s fault!”
That’s what you often hear from NARA members both in jest and in fact who were present at the time of NARA’s beginnings. Many of these folks still live here who had been living in this quiet rural area for many years prior to NARA. And they won’t hesitate to tell you what it was like “way back when”. We moved here from Wiesbaden AFB in Germany in 1980. After renting a house for two years we decided that Las Vegas was “the place” that we wanted to call home. We found this house on a half acre in what was then a quiet, relatively rural setting. It was our first house and we could just barely afford it, but it was for the long haul, and as a family we made a commitment. The neighbors behind us had horses, many people had chickens, someone had a peacock, and the veterinarian down on the corner had a cow in his back yard. In the morning roosters would crow and it sounded like Old McDonald’s farm! Sometimes we would see a road runner using the top of our back yard block wall for a highway to get from point A to point B. The kids loved it. And it was fun to watch the small private airplanes fly over the house as they came in for a landing at the little airport down the street. It really felt like home.
It all started like this. We were eating dinner one evening November of 1994. There was a knock on the door. I answered it. There was a middle aged black lady wearing a funny hat standing there with papers in her hand, and the conversation went just like this:
Linda: “Hi! My name is Linda Young. I live right over there on Bradley.” She turned and pointed towards Chloe Way.
Linda: “Do you know about this? They’re trying to take our neighborhood away!” She gave me a copy of something from the city about a meeting.
Me: “No, I don’t know anything about it”.
Linda: “Well, we have to do something about this”. She gave me the 5-cent briefing on what it was about and asked me, “Do you understand?”
Me: “Yes maam”
Linda: “I’m going to have a meeting at my house Friday night, and you need to come!”
Me: “Yes maam.”
Linda: “Okey. I’m going to contact as many neighbors as I can to come. You be sure and be there, okay?”
Me: “Yes maam”
I didn’t know who she was. I had been away from home some 6 years, with three Air Force assignments, leaving the family at home for stability, and had not gotten to know a lot of the neighbors. But I liked her a lot… right away. She had “moxie”. She saw a problem and took control to do the right thing. I was certain I could take her at face value and I had a feeling that I could learn a lot from her. That’s how it all started. It truly was “all Linda’s fault”.
Linda Young’s garage had been converted into one large room that was perfect for meetings. There was a good turn out from neighbors both in the immediate area and from others several blocks away. Linda explained that Land Title Of Nevada was making an application for a Zoning Request to build 272 apartments on the parcel that we now know as the Rancho/Gowan Business Park, along with some commerc-al business and 13 small lot homes along Bradley as a “buffer”. 20% of the apart-ments would be designated for “low-income”. Everyone agreed that this was totally unacceptable. Linda had made copies of a letter of opposition for neighbors to send to Mayor Jan Jones, the Planning Commission, and the four members of the City Council. Linda had coordinated to have the next evening meeting December 14th the at Parson Elementary School.
At this meeting strategies were discussed and laid out for the pending January 12th Planning Commission meeting. Linda suggested we needed a community identity. Using the Northwest Citizens Association, and the Sheep Mountain Homeowners Association names as models, she came up with the Northwest Area Residents Association (NARA) and using the slogan, “Sticks In A Bundle Are Unbreakable”. It sounded like a good idea. At a follow-up January 4th meeting we were told that someone from city hall said our best bet would be to make concessions and live with it. This just reinforced neighborhood resolve. The rezoning was wrong. That’s what zoning categories and ordinances were all about. If small lots and apartments could go here, they could go anywhere and zoning would have no meaning. Councilman Scott Higginson had been approached for his input and support, but he was leaving (taking a position with Del Web) and advised us to direct our needs to our new councilman Matt Callister. So, we were really starting from scratch with a new organization, a new agenda item, a new councilman, and a process that few of us had any experience with.
With a large community turnout at the January 12th first Planning Commission meeting, the developer was directed to reassess their proposal and the agenda item was carried over to February 9th. The same thing happened February 9th, and the developer was given “one last chance” for the 23rd. At the third Planning Commission meeting Land Title reduced the apartment number to 248 but Planning continued to deny the rezoning request as being incompatible with only Bradley Road as a buffer from an established R-E neighborhood.
If it was all Linda Young’s fault that NARA got started, it’s probably safe to say that it’s all Councilman Matt Callister’s fault for us being successful in getting off to the right start. Except for some of the neighbors who had real-estate experience, topics like ordinances, zoning, Title #18, city planning & council protocol, classic developer strategies, and the general agenda language being used was foreign and somewhat intimidating to most of us. Matt met with us at Linda’s garage meetings, and made it simple. As an attorney he anticipated developer strategy, and based on establish-ed zoning we were assured that our argument was valid and that compromise was totally inappropriate. He believed in us and our cause. His agenda was our agenda. And it was terrific timing.
March 14th, the evening before the City Council meeting, Councilman Callister was at the Parson School NARA meeting to discuss and fine tune tomorrow’s effort. At the March 15th City Council meeting, the Planning Commission’s decision was echoed and reinforced by the dais and the Terra West/Land Title of Nevada agenda item was defeated. Their high density housing/commercial proposal was incompatible next to an established RNP neighborhood without a functional buffer. And it would have been a precedent decision circumventing city code and ordinance to the benefit of corporate over community.
The importance of this first NARA agenda item was in the “wake up call”, that in fact we were on the radar for pending local and corporate developers, and we were going to have to be vigilant. The importance of this outcome cannot be over stated. It gave NARA the perception and assurance that if we were well organized, played by the rules, had a valid argument supported by city ordinance, and had a committed city councilman for direction and support, that we could sustain our rural culture, values, identity and as a RNP community, and keep new development compatible with our neighborhoods through supportive zoning criteria. But we all knew that there was still much to learn.
At this March 14th meeting, “Formal Development of Northwest Area Residents Association (NARA)” began. An executive board with officers, constitution and by-laws, planning a NARA block party, NARA membership and cost, e-mail, process for regular mailing, obtaining a NARA mail box, filing for non-profit status, potential committees, and becoming involved with the Northwest Master Plan, all seemed to come up at once! Speeding on Gowan and Alexander even at this early date was an issue of concern.
At the April 27, 1995 meeting, NARA was established:
John Stanton lived right on Gowan and volunteered to be President Mike Hamilton lived over on Hickam and volunteered to be Vice-President with his real-estate experience. Carol Moore lived on Bradley and volunteered to be Recording Secretary Sharon Johnson volunteered to be Treasurer, although we had no money. Linda Young volunteered to be Parliamentarian, and would continue with her behind the scenes efforts to research information and network and coordinate resources. Lex Anderson volunteered to be Corresponding Secretary because Linda Young told him to do it, and Lex does everything Linda tells him to do!
Councilman Matt Callaster was at this meeting, and offered his words of wisdom. Linda Young was recognized for her work in our organizing us as a community voice. By June we were organized for our first NARA community block party, on Chloe Way, Linda Young had designed NARA “T” shirts for sale, it was decided that $10 a year per residence would be a reasonable volunteer membership fee. John Stanton had personally put up the $35 for a NARA mail box.
And…that’s how it all began!