Land use planning

Governments use land use planning to manage the development of land within their jurisdictions.  This is done so that the jurisdiction can plan for the needs of the community while being mindful of natural resources and to avoid conflicts in land uses.  The land use plan maps out where industrial uses, residential uses, and commercial uses amongst others should go within the city to avoid conflicts. Each jurisdiction creates a land use plan, also known as a comprehensive plan, general plan, etc. put together by the government agencies planners. The goal of each land use plan is to provide a vision for the future possibilities of development in neighborhoods, districts, cities, or another defined planning area for sustainable growth.

What happens when land is running out?

According to an FAQ released by the Clark County Department of Environment and Sustainability, in 2020, population projections at the time suggested that the county’s population will continue to grow to 2.85 million people by 2035 and 3.16 million people by 2060. Yet, at the time of the study, Clark County was projected to run out of disposal land in less than a decade. The more people living in southern Nevada means more land needed for both residential, industrial, and commercial uses; and the less land available means the cost of that land will skyrocket even further than it currently has for all development. Enter the Southern Nevada Economic Development and Conservation Act otherwise known as the Clark County Lands Bill.

What is the Clark County Lands Bill designed to do?

Under the Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Act of 1998 (SNPLMA), the Secretary of the Interior is authorized to make lands available for disposal, within the congressionally designated disposal boundary.  The Clark County Lands Bill seeks an expansion of the SNPLMA disposal boundary by 42,427 acres, to support future development and population growth while conserving natural resources, including water, and protecting desert wildlife. There are already talks of reducing the amount of land that would be added for the bill to pass.

For the purposes of this article, we will focus on the bill’s impact on land use planning around commercial, industrial, and residential development. The bill seeks to re-zone the additional disposal area in the northwest and south county from rural open land and its planned land use of open land to refined land use planning which will allow for residential, nonresidential, and recreational uses that integrate natural open spaces and natural features compatible with the surrounding landscape. The land use plans would be created for these areas using public input with thought given to current facilities, infrastructure, and resources. They would provide the map for sustainable growth that avoids urban sprawl but would help southern Nevada to accommodate the projected population growth with housing, jobs, and a tax base to assist with the local and state services that will also be needed.  According to the Clark County Department of Environment and Sustainability, additional benefits would include but are not limited to:

  • Increases opportunities for affordable housing
  • Increases economic development opportunities
  • Allows for more space for parks, recreation, open space and other local and federal conservation and recreation projects
  • Protects fire and police stations, parks and community centers, schools, and other local infrastructure in southern Nevada

As it stands, the Clark County Board of Commissioners voted to advance the Draft Resolution that urges Congress to enact the Clark County Lands Bill. The bill has the support of U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) and must pass both the House and the Senate to be enacted. From a land use perspective, any steps to provide southern Nevada the opportunity to meet future population growth, maintain a vibrant community and support future sustainable development opportunities is a step worth taking. For more information on the Clark County Lands Bill, visit the county’s website.


Melissa Eure is the president of G.C. Garcia Inc., a Nevada-based land planning and development services firm currently celebrating 25 years in business. For more information, please visit or call (702) 435-9909.