Clark County has sued an advertised “nude luxury retreat,” alleging its managers are running an unlicensed business out of two adjacent homes on East Harmon Avenue.
The government filed a lawsuit Tuesday in Clark County District Court, asking a judge to shut down the business and order Dewey and Julie Wohl to pay more than $15,000 in unpaid taxes, fees and interest.
The Wohls, who own properties at 2461 and 2471 E. Harmon Ave., are named as co-defendants in the lawsuit. So is Sea Mountain One Love Temple, which was advertised in a Las Vegas travel magazine this month as a “nude luxury retreat” with a 24-hour dayclub and nightclub.
The court filing follows a county code enforcement investigation last year that found signage for Sea Mountain One Love Temple placed around the two homes’ shared backyard pools.
The county designated the home at 2461 E. Harmon Ave. as a place of worship under its previous ownership. A sign hanging out front reads, “Zen Temple Las Vegas.”
But the county’s lawsuit accuses the Wohls of using both homes as a commercial spa, nightclub, bar, motel and retail store. Food is also being served there without proper permitting from the Southern Nevada Health District, according to the lawsuit.
The Wohls’ attorney disputed the allegations Thursday.
“It is a private home that has a special-use permit for religious and assembly purposes,” attorney R. Christopher Reade said. “I think they have had assemblies of friends, whether you would call it religious or philosophical purposes.”
Reade also dismissed a Better Business Bureau complaint filed last June that cited loud music and people screaming coming from the two homes “all day and night.”
“They have had one gadfly neighbor they’ve had an ongoing dispute with,” he said. “That is the only issue that I am aware of.”
The controversy around the properties has angered their former owner.
Las Vegas artist James Stanford said he and his wife, Lynn Morris, operated the homes as a “completely legitimate” Buddhist meditation center for more than five years.
“When we sold it, we had no idea what Julie and Dewey Wohl were going to do with the place,” he said. “To see it turn out like this is my wife and I’s biggest nightmare. It makes me sick to my stomach actually.”
Stanford and Morris bought the houses in 2009. The properties were in disrepair, but Stanford said the couple saw an undeniable feng shui.
Drawing inspiration from the Sherman Library and Gardens in Newport Beach, California, he transformed the two homes’ shared backyard into a meditation garden filled with walking paths, clumping bamboo plants and trees bearing figs, oranges, apples and lemons. There was a Buddhist shrine, multiple pools and a tennis court repurposed into a tai chi classroom.
Work took place inside the homes too, and a three-car garage became a dharma room with cork flooring. The improvements cost more than $1 million, Stanford said.
The couple named their creation the Zen Center of Las Vegas. Clark County designated it as an official place of worship, and several times a week a Zen master and as many as two dozen practitioners wearing traditional kasa robes would gather for meditation.
“I designed every element of it. Remodeled everything. Paid for everything,” Stanford said. “It was a really nice little campus where people could go and be enriched with the dharma.”
But Stanford said he did not receive enough support from the community to hold onto the property. The couple sold the homes to the Wohls for $610,000 in late 2016 after Morris was diagnosed with cancer.
The properties are still designated as a place of worship, and Stanford said the allegations of commercial uses remained unknown to him until last week when news outlets published reports of the county’s impending lawsuit.
“They rode our coattails,” he said of the Wohls. “I think what they’re doing is a travesty. It’s profane, truly profane. It’s not something I ever would have envisioned.”
Contact Michael Scott Davidson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-477-3861. Follow @davidsonlvrj on Twitter.