Editor’s note: This is the second part of a two-part series highlighting the nation-leading growth in the Las Vegas residential real estate market. (See Part 1: Las Vegas grows up…and up.)

In June, bidders paid $707.2 million for 2,532 acres in the Las Vegas area. The auction drew an estimated 1,500 to 2,000 people, including some major development groups, for parcels as large as 1,940 acres–the equivalent of 3 square miles.

It was the latest in a series of Bureau of Land Management auctions that are a provision of unique land-use laws in the region. These laws, the Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act of 1998 and the Clark County Conservation of Public Land and Natural Resources Act of 2002, regulate the sale of government land to sustain the development and growth of the Las Vegas metropolitan area.

In exchange for the land sales, the laws provide for the acquisition of environmentally sensitive lands, improvements to wildlife and recreation areas, development of a habitat conservation plan, and the development of parks, trails and natural areas in Clark County. About 8,200 acres have been sold in 19 auctions so far, generating about $1.41 billion.

The nation-leading Las Vegas growth spurt owes a lot to the land act, as the vast majority of land surrounding the metropolis is federally owned. But while the land-use program may sound like a developer’s dream, there is a shrinking pool of property designated for sale, and the days of breakneck low-density growth may be drawing to a close.

A study released this year by the Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors found that developable land in the region could be consumed within 20 years, considering a pace of about 6,100 acres developed each year. In 2003 about 5,077 acres were developed in the Greater Las Vegas area, the study also found, with about 56 percent of that land devoted to single-family homes, 11 percent to apartments and 1 percent to condominiums. And about 4,000 acres come up for sale each year through the bureau’s land-auction program.

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