Bankrupt golf course issue set to heat up at City Hall

One of the most contentious discussions to hit the City Council chamber in some time is headed for a possible showdown in February, when the Council is scheduled to take up creating public policy for the redevelopment of bankrupt golf courses.

And you can bet that plenty of ears will be listening closely — especially in Summerlin, where there is an abundance of golf courses, including some that are feeling the pinch of a nationwide downturn in golf play, and at least one that has been closed for almost two years.

That course is Badlands, which weaves in and out of Queensridge and other homes that make up some of the most opulent housing in all of Las Vegas. Badlands is bounded by South Hualapai Way, Alta Drive, South Rampart Boulevard and West Charleston Boulevard.

Strident public discussions involving the Queensridge Owners Association and developer EHB Cos. regarding the future of the closed course have been on the boiler for many months, pitting the developer’s proposal to convert Badlands into housing against opposing residents, while outspoken lawyers for both sides are there for support.

While the Badlands matter has been a noisy bone of contention, it is not the only open land area that has prompted the City Council to take up the question of establishing guidelines for proposals from developers to also build on other park-like settings in the midst of existing communities.

Talks at City Hall about establishing a public policy ordinance for such types of redevelopment have been moving forward since a City Council meeting last September addressed the need for guidelines. In fact, Ward 2 Councilman Steve Seroka has been working with staffers on regulations that could apply to 23 sites that have been designated as master development plan areas. That list includes 11 golf courses.

“We do not have a policy for that kind of development, which is more common across the rest of the country,” Seroka said. “So back in September we asked for a six-month time frame to allow staff to work up a public engagement program. It would include policy committee stakeholder groups that would allow for public hearings for developers and similar hearings for prospective residents,” he explained.

Seroka said the findings were to be presented to the Las Vegas Planning Commission, which has for many months been hearing the views of residents in the Queensridge area as well as developer EHB Cos. Seroka said he hopes a plan that could guide any potential for similar redevelopment of other golf courses and parklands could be presented at the City Council meeting Feb. 21.

“As for Badlands, any final decision, regardless of what the Planning Commission finds, will be up to the City Council,” he commented.

Nationwide, golf reached its peak as a participant activity, especially for retirees, just prior to the economic slide more than 10 years ago. And Las Vegas, with its abundance of courses, had long been a favorite destination for such retirees, which gave rise to the kinds of housing communities that were built to accommodate golfers. Many of those communities can be found in and around Summerlin.

According to the National Golf Foundation, which collects any and all information that relates to the sport, more than 800 courses across the country have met the same fate as Badlands in the last decade, which may account for why other cities have been establishing guidelines for redeveloping golf courses.

Herb Jaffe was an op-ed columnist and investigative reporter for most of his 39 years at the Star-Ledger of Newark, New Jersey. His most recent novel, “Double Play,” is now available. Contact him at hjaffe@cox.net.

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