City Councilman Steve Seroka, who says he was prompted to run for office because of the dispute over plans to convert the Badlands Golf Course near Alta and Rampart into residential development, says he’s hoping to avoid similar battles in the future.
The measure would require developers to ascertain the impacts of their proposals before the City Council votes whether to grant entitlements. The measure is in response to a dispute over plans by developer Yohan Lowie to build housing on the closed Badlands Golf Course near Alta and Rampart. The dispute has resulted in costly litigation for taxpayers and the developer.
But Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman says the proposed standards would require developers to come out of pocket for studies before approval and therefore, stifle development. Goodman says her concerns are focused on Wards One, Three and Five.
“I’m passionate about fixing the historical part of town,” Goodman said. “This ordinance would put the financial burden on the front end and the potential investor will have to come up with the funds and they’re going to say, ‘I’m going to the southwest. I’m going to Henderson or somewhere else.”
“We’re creating more lawsuits that taxpayers are paying millions of dollars for,” said Councilwoman Michelle Fiore.
Lowie failed last month in his federal court effort to stop Councilmen Steve Seroka and Bob Coffin from voting on the matter. Public records requests made by Lowie revealed inflammatory emails written by Coffin, in which Coffin makes demeaning comments about Lowie.
“Listen, I’m about to read your email to the public, so calm down,” said Councilwoman Fiore to Councilman Coffin at one point during the meeting.
Fiore went on to read an expletive-filled email written by Coffin in which he bemoaned the legal action by Lowie.
“You mean to tell me this councilman can vote without biasism (sic)?” asked Fiore, who made the email part of the record and argued Coffin should not vote.
According to city staff, two additional burdens would be placed on developers of one acre or more of open space — an environmental worksheet on plans to mitigate wildlife and ecological concerns and a three-dimensional model of the proposed development.
Coffin chided Mayor Goodman for her desire to foster development, potentially to the detriment of residents.
“Our job is to protect residents. We have to deal with poor people, middle-class people, and wealthy people,” he said.
A representative for the lender on the Badlands project, Craig Newman of Vegas Ventures LLC, said the perception of the ordinance is that it’s anti-development. “Is that the reality? I guess we’ll find out.”
“Everyone who bought at Queensridge should have been aware of the residential zoning for the Badlands Golf Course if they did their homework,” said Newman, who says Vegas Ventures LLC relied on the city’s representation that Lowie had entitlements for the project. “If foreclosure ensues against Lowie, Vegas Ventures will litigate.”
Homeowners who live on the Silverstone Golf Course, which also faces possible development, testified they purchased their homes in part because of the golf course view. One called the city’s approval of the sale of the golf course for development “a travesty.” Some complained that Mayor Goodman should abstain from voting on the bill because her son, Ross, represented buyers of the golf course.
Construction workers who hope to build homes on the former golf courses packed the council chambers in opposition to the measure, which they say will cost jobs.
Attorney Frank Schreck, who lives in Queensridge, spoke in favor of the ordinance.
“Everybody who bought on the golf course bought into the golf course based on what you see is what you get,” said Schreck. “No community should be put through the emotional and financial trauma the Queensridge community has been through.”
Schreck pointed out the city is spending millions of dollars on outside attorneys to defend itself against Lohan. A lawsuit filed by the homeowners is pending before the Nevada Supreme Court.
“If you don’t think you’re affecting development, you don’t know what you’re talking about,” attorney Chris Kaempfer, also a resident of Queensridge, told the council. “They’re not going to spend tens of millions of dollars on the if come.”
After hours of debate, the bill passed with only Goodman and Fiore voting against it.