Bulder City Mayor: McManus, Hardy, Vece debate growth in BC mayor primary

Mayor Kiernan McManus (Boulder City)

Boulder City residents will have the opportunity to select a new mayor, or stick with the incumbent when they head to the polls for the primary election.

Incumbent Kiernan McManus, who is seeking a second term, is being challenged by state Sen. Joe Hardy and Tanya Vece.

With similar positions on controlled growth and preserving the community’s small-town charm a top priority, selecting who will serve as mayor may come down to the candidate’s leadership style and personality. Each seeks what they believe is the best for Boulder City, but has a different path to achieve that goal.

McManus, 64, said he believes he has already accomplished making the city better, in part by helping replace the former city attorney, city clerk and city manager, three of the city’s four appointed officials.

“ … I certainly don’t take any pride in that, but it was absolutely something that had become apparent needed to be done,” he said.

Their replacements, he said, have received high praise from the entire council and helped guide the city.

He said he also feels he served well during the COVID-19 pandemic, which “dominated all we’ve done,” he said.

“The pandemic weighed on us for two years,” he said, noting the city made it through in pretty good shape.

McManus, a native of Boulder City with a combined 44 years of residency, served on the city’s Historic Preservation Committee before joining the City Council. He is a member of the local Elks lodge and volunteers as a Meals on Wheels delivery driver. He is single.

Long record of service

Hardy, 73, a former Boulder City councilman, state assemblyman and current state senator, said he was recruited to run for mayor.

“Having been in the world of elections before and knowing that I am termed out from the state Senate in November and knowing that I liked to keep busy and knowing that I love Boulder City and knowing that I had experience and am somewhat blessed with longevity I said, ‘Yes that was something that I could do.’”

He said he believes his ability to work with both sides of the aisle, especially in a nonpartisan position, without an “adversarialism,” would benefit the community.

Hardy and his wife, Jill, have lived in Boulder City since June 1982. He has eight children and 21 grandchildren. A physician and associate professor at Touro University Nevada, Hardy has affiliation with numerous medical organizations as well as with the Boy Scouts of America, several chambers of commerce and the American Legion.

Seeking a change

Vece, 41, said she is running because she is “extraordinarily upset” with the current mayor’s treatment and handling of Boulder City. She said his behavior and lack of responsiveness to citizens is inappropriate for the office.

“You should serve all the people, not just those who championed your campaign,” she said.

Vece, who works in the medical marketing field, has lived in Boulder City for 10 years and has been active in many community organizations, including the Boulder City Chamber of Commerce, Dam Short Film Festival and Boulder City Museum and Historical Association. She is single.

Fighting sprawl

For all three, keeping the city from experiencing urban sprawl is a key responsibility of the office.

“I also still have the same concern which motivated me to run for City Council and then for mayor that there are a lot of forces and people that would like to see Boulder City change in ways that I don’t believe the majority of our residents desire,” said McManus, who was elected mayor in 2019 after serving two years on the City Council.

He said the idea of growing the city has been an issue for more than 40 years.

“I believe in conservative growth. I think that’s what has made this town such a special place.”

The city’s controlled growth ordinance allows for 120 new homes to be constructed each year, with no more than 30 from any one builder.

Though not challenging the ordinance’s restrictions, in November the city voted 3-2 to accept a proposal from luxury home builder Toll Brothers to construct 177 homes on roughly 45 acres near Boulder Creek Golf Club, bringing in approximately $28.5 million over the course of the project, with the majority of the proceeds designated for construction of a new aquatic facility.

Citizens voted to sell the parcel in 2010 for residential development and it was rezoned in 2015 with minimum lot sizes ranging from 7,000 to 15,000 square feet. Toll Brothers’ proposal, however, has 78 5,000-square-foot lots and 99 7,000-square-foot lots.

Hardy said he doesn’t feel the proposal follows the intent of the ordinance.

“It’s a simple equation, when it first started… it started out as 100 lots and then it became, in one proposal, 122 and then in another proposal it came to 177 and then in another proposal it’s come to 185. And then it’s been talked about duplexes and condos. … I don’t think over 122 is what I would call controlled growth,” he said.

To keep with the spirit of the city’s controlled growth ordinance, he said it would be better to build fewer homes in the proposed new subdivision.

McManus said there were no developers interested in the lot sizes from the 2015 zoning plan applied by city staff and planning commissioners. He said he didn’t suggest the 5,000 square foot lot size and cautioned citizens to remember that this is “just the first proposal; nothing has been approved yet.”

Vece said she believes accepting Toll Brothers’ proposal was tantamount to selling the city’s soul in exchange for money to build a new pool.

“I don’t like any tract home coming into Boulder City,” she said, adding that the Historic Preservation Committee could have done a better job of protecting the city’s aesthetics so that we could have some growth and maintain the city’s character.

She said she believes that when there was no developer interested in purchasing the parcel it “should not have been brought back to the table at all.”

McManus, who voted against accepting Toll Brothers’ proposal, said he would prefer “to have condominiums or townhomes built along Adams (Boulevard) with significant, landscaped space in between, offering an opportunity for young families to purchase something affordable, something that doesn’t cost between $700,000 and $1 million.”

Hardy said he doesn’t believe the concept of “affordable housing goes with a golf course no matter the lot size.”

“I like the concept of seeing the golf course,” Hardy said. “We have this concept of clean, green Boulder City and if you can see the golf course you can see green, and if you can’t see the golf course through the myriad of smaller homes that are built, or condos or duplexes, then you come away from the small, growth-controlled green concept of Boulder City.”

Fighting annexation plan

Another growth issue locals are concerned about is the approximately 8,000 acres of land in the Eldorado Valley adjacent to the community that is being considered for annexation into Henderson. City Council officially opposed it in December, although McManus admits there isn’t really much the city can do to prevent the annexation.

He called it a very clear example of leapfrog development.

Vece agreed that there is little anyone in the city can do to prevent the annexation, but said she doesn’t believe the way it has been handled is appropriate.

“It felt like a punch to my gut when I saw the current mayor stand up at his state of the city and put ‘Henderson Nope’ on a slideshow — on his PR slide show. Nope is not enough.”

Vece said she spoke with Henderson Mayor Debra March about the issue and realized Boulder City’s “hands are tied” at this point.

Hardy, however, said he believes his contacts as a legislator in the Assembly and Senate have helped him develop relationships with the mayor and city staff in Henderson and that will benefit Boulder City residents. He said Henderson officials have shown him their annexation plans and assured him that the land is slated strictly for commercial development on a scale that wouldn’t overpower the area. He said it doesn’t support residential development.

He said Boulder City looked at annexing the same property several years ago and determined that it could not deliver the necessary services and decided against adding the land to the city.

“I’m not sure anyone in the history of the United States has annexed more land than Boulder City and for us to say ‘Oh well Henderson shouldn’t annex any land’ is somewhat disingenuous because we annexed.”

Additionally, because so much of the annexed land in the Eldorado Valley was designated for conservation and wildlife preservation, other cities in Southern Nevada have the ability to grow.

“And periodically when I’m at tables talking with different people from Henderson, Las Vegas, North Las Vegas and everywhere, they periodically look at Boulder City and say ‘You know you guys don’t really don’t contribute to us.’ And I have to remind them and I say ‘That if it weren’t for us you wouldn’t have what you have’ … So now they’re more amenable to us having a seat not only at the table but we have a vote on every commission in the greater Las Vegas area.”

He also said he would not be opposed to annexing more land, if necessary, to “proactively ensure our borders are protected” so that Boulder City can continue to be “small, safe and secure.”

He said he also does not feel threatened by good neighbors and Henderson has been a good neighbor, sharing fire, police and backup calls.

Contact Hali Bernstein Saylor at hsaylor@bouldercityreview.com or 702-586-9523. Follow @HalisComment on Twitter.