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Las Vegas builder buys shuttered golf course, plans 1,600 homes

Updated January 19, 2022 - 9:49 am

A Las Vegas homebuilder has taken ownership of a now-shuttered golf course with plans to build more than 1,600 homes.

Touchstone Living closed its $33.7 million purchase of Royal Links Golf Club on Dec. 23, property records show.

The last day to play golf at Royal Links, a roughly 162-acre property along Vegas Valley Drive about a mile east of Nellis Boulevard, was Dec. 17, according to a message on its website.

Work crews started removing the course around the start of the year, Touchstone founder Tom McCormick said this week.

Touchstone’s sprawling development would bring lower-priced housing to a market that accelerated last year with rapid sales and record-high prices, all while paving over a golf course that was once owned by sports bettor Bill Walters and immersed in controversy years ago.

McCormick said his plans call for 1,298 homes — all attached two-story dwellings — on the main 130-acre section of Royal Links south of Vegas Valley Drive, as well as 25 acres of parks there.

The golf course will be removed in phases, and trees from the property are being relocated around the perimeter of the new community, he said.

McCormick said he also is looking to build 320 homes on the 32-acre section of Royal Links north of Vegas Valley Drive, though his development plans for that portion of the course haven’t been finalized.

Scottsdale Golf Group founder Shelby Futch, whose firm operated Royal Links, sold the course to the developer, records indicate.

He did not respond to a request for comment.

High prices

In general, housing developers can offer lower prices by cramming more units onto a project site. But overall, newly built homes priced between $200,000 and $300,000 are almost “nonexistent” in Southern Nevada, as land, labor and materials costs have all skyrocketed, McCormick said.

Last year, just 2.3 percent of net new-home sales — newly signed contracts minus cancellations — were in communities with an average base price in the $200,000-range, according to Las Vegas-based Home Builders Research.

Overall, the median sales price of newly built single-family houses in Southern Nevada was $469,898 in November, up 17.8 percent from a year earlier, while new condos and townhomes sold for a median price of $342,495, up 24.5 percent, the firm reported.

Royal Links’ neighbors include plenty of housing and an adjacent city-owned sewage treatment plant. According to a June 2020 letter from now-City Manager Jorge Cervantes, the city of Las Vegas spent nearly $150 million “to reduce or eliminate odors” from the wastewater treatment facility.

In an interview this past fall, McCormick said he figured there would be “some amount of resistance” from prospective buyers to living near the plant, but also noted the city had “done a great job remediating that” and there is “a lot of demand for that end of town.”

Rocky past

Touchstone’s project marks a new chapter for a property with a volatile history.

Walters purchased the then-vacant site from the city of Las Vegas in 1999 for $894,000. The deal came with a deed restriction preventing anything but a golf course on the site, given its location next to a plant that in 1993 alone sparked 1,400 odor complaints, city records show.

Amid the frenzy of Las Vegas’ real estate bubble, Walters offered the city $7.2 million in 2005 to lift the deed restriction to allow residential development.

The City Council approved lifting the restriction in fall 2005 but rescinded the vote two weeks later, after Nevada’s then-attorney general, George Chanos, stated his office planned to investigate matters concerning the property, including its sale and the process of lifting its deed restriction.

According to a city memo at the time, former public works chief Richard Goecke violated bidding or spending protocols multiple times between 1996 and 1998 in connection with Walters’ acquisition, the Review-Journal reported.

A Las Vegas police investigation determined Goecke “did commit acts which were likely criminal in nature,” but then-District Attorney David Roger determined criminal charges could not be pursued because the statute of limitations had expired, according to reports.

Chanos also issued a report that alleged “a consistent pattern of political and financial favoritism granted to Mr. Walters’s business entities by the city of Las Vegas.”

Walters was not accused of wrongdoing.

Ultimately, Royal Links remained a golf course, and Futch acquired the property in 2016, records indicate.

Walters, meanwhile, was arrested in 2016 on charges of insider trading. Convicted in 2017 and sentenced to five years in prison, he was released from a federal prison camp in Florida in 2020 to serve the remainder of his sentence in home confinement under a coronavirus release program, reports said.

On his final day in office, then-President Donald Trump pardoned Walters, one of 143 pardons and sentence commutations, White House officials said at the time.

Contact Eli Segall at esegall@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0342. Follow @eli_segall on Twitter.

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