Sometimes, I watch the Las Vegas City Council meetings on TV for yuks.
Sometimes, I watch out of curiosity.
Aug. 2 turned out to be a twofer. Curiosity and yuks.
I wondered how newbie council members Steve Seroka and Michele Fiore would handle themselves in this, their second meeting, the one dealing with the most contentious issue that has been before the council in the past two years.
Would Yohan Lowie, CEO of EHB Cos., win approval for the development proposal on the 250-acre Badlands Golf Course that he bought for $7 million in March 2015? Would the divided council agree to his latest plan of 2,169 residential units, mostly apartments, a hotel and commercial development?
I was certain Councilman Steve Seroka would vote against it. That was one major reason he unseated Bob Beers in the city election.
Seroka started off, without cracking a smile, “I am not here to do anyone’s bidding,”
I cracked a smile on his behalf.
He’s in that seat because Beers supported Lowie’s right to develop the golf course land. Backers who opposed Lowie turned to Seroka because he would oppose it.
When Seroka read his written statement before making his motion to deny this proposal, it was clear he came to the meeting with his mind made up.
His statement listing reasons to deny was thorough. Too much density. The developer hadn’t obtained necessary easements, and the Las Vegas Valley Water District told Seroka it wasn’t going to give Lowie a required easement. Other issues.
“We’ve had three different versions in the last seven days,” Seroka said. “Adding 2,000 apartments would make this the single-most dense corner in Las Vegas, he said, referring to Alta Drive and Rampart Boulevard. “In essence, we don’t know what we’re voting for.”
No time for timeouts
The nearly four hours spent on the proposal would have been far shorter if Mayor Carolyn Goodman hadn’t started the discussion with a wacky idea. She sought a 30-day extension where lawyers involved would step back, not be involved.
Instead, she wanted City Attorney Brad Jerbic and Planning Director Tom Perrigo to come up with a development proposal to present to both sides.
Now why is city staff going to be creating a development plan? When did that become their job?
Even after she was told a trial on other issues had been set for mid-September, Goodman still pushed for a delay. Goodman thought someone could make a call and postpone the trial. Another wacky idea.
She and Fiore wasted time by repeatedly pushing a useless and impossible time-out.
For a while, Councilwoman Lois Tarkanian said she’d like more time. But her reasoning was different. She wanted more time to understand the issues. When she finally voted, she followed Seroka’s recommendation to deny, becoming the swing vote.
Explaining his reasoning, Councilman Bob Coffin voted to deny.
So did Councilman Stavros Anthony, now a congressional candidate, who said nothing during the meeting or explained his vote. Whatever he said would likely make enemies so he became Mute Man.
The votes to approve the proposal were Goodman, Fiore and Councilman Ricki Barlow.
Development debate still not over
Except it may not be over. Lowie can come back with another plan any time he wants, just not this one.
Lowie has had a week to consider options. “We have development rights. We intend to use them,” he said via email Wednesday.
He also stated, “We brought forward the best possible project for the neighbors and the community. It was rejected. Regardless of what shape it eventually takes, the development of the former golf course property has always been viewed as a long term project.”
Goodman may be correct. The golf course may be developed in some fashion that the homeowners find worse. That’s what Beers always said.
They could be proven right, whenever this ends.
Jane Ann Morrison’s column runs Thursdays in the Nevada section. Contact her at email@example.com or 702-383-0275. Follow @janeannmorrison on Twitter.