Political favoritism questioned
Las Vegas Tribune
November 23, 1999
By Steve Miller
 NDOT widening plan for Industrial Rd.                    McDonald’s new house...

LAS VEGAS - Property owners near the expanded Crazy Horse Too are legally questioning whether the circumstances leading up to the approval -- after the fact -- of the topless club resulted in the sudden lifestyle change of Councilman Michael McDonald? Soon after the questioned expansion McDonald took up residence in a half million dollar house owned by the father in law of a business partner of Rick Rizzolo, the owner of the topless club.

The house located in Canyon Gate Country Club is owned by the wife of Anthony Tegano the father in law of Joey Cusamano, a well known associate of Rizzolo. McDonald refused to state what he pays to lease the 2,300 square foot villa, only to say "I pay my fair share." McDonald makes $37,000 per year as a City Councilman. Real estate experts estimate that the villa should rent for between $3,000 and $4,000 per month not including utilities and homeowner’s association fees.

Even with the full knowledge that the Nevada Department of Transportation planned to take all of the parking spaces in front of the Crazy Horse Too for the widening of Industrial Rd., the Las Vegas City Council waived normally required parking and traffic studies and allowed a 6,000 sq. ft. expansion.

This unprecedented action has resulted in a lawsuit by Meadows Village property owners that claim that the enlarged business does not have adequate parking. The suit now in the form of an emergency Writ of Mandamus will go to trial in mid December. The plaintiffs want the City Council’s decision reversed and the addition closed.

What makes this story so unusual is that the expansion had already been completed prior to the City Council's approval. Neighbors of the topless club appeared at the Council meeting to protest, but were cut short. Their attorney was also silenced when he tried to protest the waiving of the parking and traffic studies.

Several protesters accused Mayor Jones and Councilman McDonald of doing Crazy Horse Too owner Rick Rizzolo a political favor by allowing the expansion.

Sources inside city hall report that Doug Rankin, an assistant to Councilman McDonald, "walked through" the handling of the topless club’s application in the city Public Works Department thereby causing the omission of the Nevada Department of Transportation plan.

The NDOT plan was completed in 1997 by the engineering firm of Louis Berger and Associates for the state transportation agency and was widely distributed to city and county Public Works officials. The plan was not presented at the council hearing.

"Walk throughs" is a term used when a councilmember or one of his staff accompany a developer through the application phase of a project. This practice, though not illegal, is considered improper and shows favoritism.

"Walk throughs" are legally tolerated but usually are looked upon as favors being given to selected political campaign contributors or cronies. 

Meadows Village property owners represented by Peter Christoff accuse the City of turning their mature neighborhood into a dumping ground for sexually orientated businesses and they specifically hold Councilman Michael McDonald responsible for creating this problem as a favor to his close friend Rick Rizzolo.

The Plaintiff is asking the court through this emergency writ to reverse the City Council's decision, and close down the illegal expansion.

Nevada Bar #1609
105 Mi. Rose St.
Reno, Nevada 89509
(775) 324-6447
Attorney for Petitioner





Case No. A400224
Dept. No. XIX
Docket No. "N" _________________ __________________ ______________ __________


COMES NOW, PETER CHRISTOFF, Petitioner above-named, by and through his attorney Glade L.Hall and petitions the Court for Writ of Mandamus to compel the CITY OF LAS VEGAS, LAS VEGAS CITY COUNCIL, to vacate the decision entered on February 8, 1999, granting the entity known as "CRAZY HORSE TOO" a variance to allow the expansion of a non conforming sexually oriented business where that expansion was specifically prohibited and to comply with the laws and due process requirements pertaining to such applications,

Petitioner further petitions the Court for Writ of Mandamus to compel the CITY OF LAS VEGAS BOARD OP ZONING ADJUSTMENT, to vacate its decision entered on January 5, 1999, to the same effect, and to compel that body to comply with the laws Pertaining to such applications.

In support of such petitions Petitioner respectfully shows as follows:

1. Petitioner is a resident and citizen of the City of Las Vegas.

2. Respondent, City of Las Vegas, is a municipal corporation and political subdivision of the State of Nevada. Its governing body is the LAS VEGAS CITY COUNCIL. Zoning variance applications are initially submitted to its BOARD OF ZONING ADJUSTMENT.

3. On or about December 15.1998 the Crazy Horse Too filed an application to the City of Las Vegas Board of Zoning Adjustment for a variance to allow the expansion of a non-Conforming sexually oriented business where that expansion is explicitly prohibited. At the time of such application the expansion for which approval was sought, had already been Constructed, apparently with the consent of officers and employees of the City of Las Vegas.

4, Such application was timely protested by Petitioner and others.

5. Notwithstanding such protests a "Use variance" and "minimum distance variance" were granted on January 5, 1999.

6. Petitioner and others timely appealed the grant of such variances to the Las Vegas City Council.

7. The subject application and proposed uses violate the Las Vegas Municipal Code in the following particulars;

a.) Subsection (a) and (b) of Code section 19A.04 (Sexually oriented business) (3) prohibit the establishment or expansion of "any sexually oriented business that is within 1000 feet of any other sexually oriented business, church, public or private school, day care, park or playground.

"4567Sb.) The applicant's Crazy Horse Too sits within 1000 feet of three other sexually oriented businesses. A public park and playground ("Dedicated to the children of Las Vegas") are another few hundred feet away.

c) Section 19A.04 (sexually oriented business) (4), while allowing the continued operation of a nonconforming sexually oriented business, categorically prohibits its expansion. 6.030(I) categorically prohibits the expansion of a nonconforming use into any other portion of the nonconforming building."

e.) Section 19A18.070(B) states that '"The variance process is not available to;

1. Permit a use in a zoning district in which the use is not allowed;

2. Vary any minimum spacing requirement between uses;

3. Relieve a hardship which is solely personal, self-created, or financial in nature.

F.) Section l9A.EK07O(L) provides:

*I. In order to approve a Variance application, the Board of Zoning Adjustment and, where applicable, the City Council, must determine that the variance is warranted both under State law and this subchapter. The minimum State law standards are set forth in Subsection 2 below.

2. Where by reason of exceptional narrowness, shallowness, or shape of a specific piece of property at the time of the enactment of the regulation, or by reason of exceptional topographic conditions or other extraordinary and exceptional situation or condition of the piece of property, the strict application of any zoning regulation would result in peculiar and exceptional practical difficulties to, or exceptional and undue hardships upon, the owner of the property, a variance from that strict application may be granted so as to relive the difficulties or hardship, if the relief may be granted without substantial detriment to the public good, without substantial impairment of affected natural resources and without substantially impairing the intent and purpose of any ordinance or resolution.242526'

g.) The applicant failed to provide landscaping plans, adjacent land uses and streets, property lines, elevations, and other necessary items. The site and floor plans that were provided are unsigned and undated copies that no engineer or architect apparently wished to take credit for. The floor "plan" does not show "North" and it is impossible to tell whether either plan depicts the property in question, since no streets are rendered. The relationship between the floor plan and site plan, if any; can also not be determined; the diagrams appear to have different dimensions. What appears to be a parking diagram appears to have no relationship to the other drawings.

h.) Succession 19A.00.05O(A) states: "No land shall be used, or structure constructed, except in accordance with the regulations and requirements of this Title, including the requirements to obtain applicable permits prior to tile use or development or the property." 1.) Section l9A.00.070 (B) makes it a misdemeanor for any person "to cause, permit or assist in the occurrence or commitment of a violation of any provision of this Title."

j.) Subsection D states that "any use of property contrary to tile provisions of this Title shall be, and is declared to be, unlawful and a public nuisance."

k.) Section 19A. 18.070(B) prohibits the Las Vegas City Council from considering any 'hardship" which is solely personal, self-created or financial."

1.) In addition, the construction of the subject addition to the building housing the Crazy Horse Too, was constructed prior to the issuance of permits authorizing such construction; were constructed without mechanical, plumbing, electrical, structural, roof, air conditioning and other plans drawn or signed by an engineer or architect,

n.) The subject addition was improperly authorized, because handicap and regular parking requirements were not met based on the projected fire capacity of the subject building; required set backs were not met; required sidewalk conditions were not met; no site plan was provided showing exterior arid interior dimensions; no vehicle ingress and egress plans were provided; no artist rendering of the view of the subject property from the street was provided.

n.) A parking variance was required under the circumstances of this matter but was neither sought nor granted.

o) The Nevada Department of Transportation was in the process of designing a street widening project that would take approximately 20 feet of space from the front of the lot on which the Crazy Horse Too conducts its business, resulting in the further loss of parking and access space.

p) When petitioner and his attorney attempted to address these parking and traffic concerns, they were advised by Mayor Jan Jones that such issues were not going to be discussed and that attempts at such discussion was out of order, thereby denying Petitioner's due process rights.

Cl) Respondents did not require Crazy Horse Too to prepare and submit with the subject application traffic and parking studies which Respondents invariably require other applicants to prepare and submit.

All of the foregoing violates the rules, laws and ordinances of the City of Las Vegas,

and the grant of a variance in the face of such violation was a Las Vegas Municipal Code and was therefore arbitrary and capricious as a matter of law.

8. In direct violation of the foregoing law and other applicable provisions the Las Vegas City Council denied Petitioner's appeal and affirmed the grant of such variances on February S, 1999

9. Such is in violation of constitutional provision, is made upon unlawful procedure, and is otherwise affected by error of law.

10. Such is clearly erroneous in view of reliable, probative and substantial evidence on the whole record and is arbitrary, capricious and characterized by an abuse of discretion.

11. Such is a violation of the Respondents' duties under the law made and provided in such circumstances.

12. Petitioner has no plain, speedy or adequate remedy in the ordinary course of the law.

13. By reason of' the foregoing, Petitioner has been required to obtain the services of an attorney to prosecute this action and is entitled to a reasonable attorney's fee. Petitioner's request for a Writ of Mandate is necessary in order to compel Respondents to comply with the dictates of their offices, to prevent further harm and injury to Petitioners and to public trust in the rule of law.

15. This Petition is made and based upon the Memorandurn of Points and Authorities filed herewith.

WHEREFORE, Petitioner prays that this Court issue a Writ of Mandamus to Respondents commanding them to make a return to this Court on or before 21 days from the issuance of such Writ of their proceedings and the justifications therefore and present the entire record of their proceedings concerning the above referenced applications and hearings with such return and that this Court then enter such further proceedings thereon and issue such further orders as the court deems meet and just in the premises, including but not limited to; An order or orders that said Decisions be vacated, voided, set aside and declared to be of no lawful force or effect.

That an order be granted after such proceeding restraining the Respondents from allowing the Continuation of the use of the subject premises by the Crazy Horse Too, and; Allowing the petitioner such further relief as may seem just and proper.

Petitioner further prays for an award of attorney's fees and costs incurred herein.

DATED this 16TH DAY of AUGUST, 1999.

Glade L. Hall
Nevada Bar #1609

Editor's note: This Writ was dismissed in 2000 because Petitioner's attorney failed to file an answer in a timely manner.

© Copyright Las Vegas Tribune