Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Public Administration (MPA)


Public Administration

First Committee Member

Dr. Goodall

Second Committee Member

Dr. Layne

Third Committee Member

Dr. Thompson, Chair

Fourth Committee Member

Dr. Townsend

Number of Pages



This paper explores public participation as determined through three land use planning case studies in Clark County, Nevada. Chapter One outlines the existing conditions for public participation and introduces a set of questions to be explored. Chapter Two defines the scope and methodology employed in the research. Chapter Three is a literature review for levels of public participation. The next Chapter discusses statutory requirements for planning and formal public participation. Further, Chapter Four outlines the events leading up to a revised planning participation process and implementation in three land use plan updates. Finally, Chapter Four explores themes derived through the planning process Chapter Five poses a list of recommendations that address public participation levels and development.

Planning is the process through which the local government along with citizens prepare for the future. The level of public participation in this process is analogous to a layered cake. The top layer would represent a true one person, one vote participation which can still be found in New England town meetings today. As you make your way through the layers, participation changes to representative participation and finally to placated participation. Finally, the last layer is public apathy where low voter turn-out and non-participation are prevalent.

Unincorporated Clark County planners are tasked with designing a participation process that balances the mandates of Nevada Revised Statutes 278 and the Ethical Principles in Planning1 with the changing needs of Clark County residents. Public participation plays a significant role in this process; soliciting input and active participation from the public helps to determine successful implementation of the plan.

The role of the level of public participation in the land use planning process has never been fully analyzed in Clark County. Several studies have been conducted that address the participation process from the citizen point of view. Locally, an analysis of public participation addressed the Cities of Henderson and Las Vegas. Generally, the study recommended a development of formal information and education procedures for the citizens.2 Yet another study only addressed civic participation in Sunrise Manor planning area. Chris Kuchuris concluded that civic participation in Sunrise Manor Town Advisory Board was deficient and that a longer period for participation was necessary to remedy the problem.3 Formal participation has been limited to town advisory boards and ad hoc committees and is defined statutorily (see Appendix A for excerpts of Nevada Revised Statute).

The Department of Comprehensive Planning has been through several land use plan updates since the Department's inception in 1979. In each of these plan updates, the level of public participation changed based on the needs of the citizens, the planners and the elected officials. Over the past five years, the participation levels has become integral to the local elected officials. Neighborhood planning, community-based decision making, grassroots initiatives have become essential to a successful planning process.

As Clark County has yet to define the role of public participation, the first question analyzed is what is the level of the role of public participation in the land use planning process? Furthermore, the tools a planner uses to measure participation may determine the outcome of the participation element. Is the role of public participation satisfactory to the planner? There have been many studies in the late 1960's and early 1970's on the extent of participation, federal mandated participation elements, and the relative success of such programs. How does that level compare to a theoretical level of participation? The approach to public participation is a continual refinement of all previous processes. There are participation models and advisory service through the American Planning Association which can serve as a planning resources. Is there a formal or informal internal process to refine public participation element? Budgeting resources is a critical factor in the assessment of a successful participation process. Are the Human and Capital resources sufficient to effectively complete the participation task? An analysis of this type will assist planners in developing public participation elements to the plans. The general body of knowledge for public participation is large, yet for Clark County, analysis of the inner workings of planners with the public as they come to consensus on land-use plans is superficial. The planner's goals are clarified through statute and public policy but implementation is unclear. Elected officials, special interest groups, at-risk minority groups are just a few influences on the planning process. What are the outside factors that affect the participation process? A detailed analysis of public participation will benefit planners in formulating future plan policy.

Fundamental principles in the planning profession and over-heated controversy concerning "citizen participation," "citizen control" and "maximum feasible involvement of the poor" in the late 1960's, benchmark the level and role of public participation.4 Professional planners are constantly searching for the optimal combination to satisfy all interested parties. By exploring the role of the level of public participation in the land use planning process, planners are hoping to refine public participation designs for future land use plan updates.

The purpose of this collective case study will be to analyze the role of the level of public participation in the Clark County land use planning process. Through a cross-case analysis bounded by a two year planning process, themes and patterns are analyzed. The planning areas are defined as Spring Valley, Enterprise and Sunrise Manor (see Appendix B for locator map). The land use planning process generally provides land use decision guidance to residents, property owners, developers, planning staff and the Board of County Commissioners. The primary players are elected officials, Planning Commission, Comprehensive Planning Steering Committee and town advisory boards. Public participation is defined as a group and/or an individual giving input through formal and informal means. Formal groups are defined as recognized and/or established groups that have a certain amount of influence and defined scope. Formal groups range from citizen advisory panels to service providing agencies. Informal groups are non-binding, narrowly focused and are short term.


Clark County (Nev.); Land use; Planning; Government policy; Nevada; Political participation; Clark County Department of Comprehensive Planning; Las Vegas Valley (Nev.); Sunrise Manor Township (Clark County; Nev.); Spring Valley (Clark County; Nev.); Enterprise (Clark County; Nev.)


Civic and Community Engagement | Place and Environment | Public Administration | Public Affairs, Public Policy and Public Administration | Public Policy | Sociology | Urban Studies

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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