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Judge awards nearly $48M to developer in Badlands case

Updated December 1, 2022 - 5:00 pm

A Clark County judge on Wednesday awarded the owner of the defunct Badlands golf course nearly $48 million in a long-running legal dispute with the city of Las Vegas.

District Judge David Jones previously ruled that the city had improperly taken 17 acres of land from developer Yohan Lowie, who had intended to build 435 luxury condominiums on that portion of the property. That sum doesn’t include attorneys fees, court costs or interest, said Elizabeth Ghanem, who represents Lowie and his company, 180 Land Co. LLC, a subsidiary of EHB Cos.

On Wednesday, Jones assigned a value to the land in a ruling from the bench: $47,990,000.

That ruling came after another judge in 2021 ruled the city must pay $34 million for a similar taking of a 34-acre property near Hualapai Way and Alta Drive in Summerlin.

As it stands, the two court rulings plus another $5.45 million spent fighting the lawsuits have Las Vegas on the hook for $87.45 million in the Badlands dispute — or $130.97 per Las Vegas resident.

A city spokesman declined to comment Thursday, saying the city of Las Vegas does not comment on pending litigation. Mayor Carolyn Goodman did not respond to a request for comment.

But Councilwoman Victoria Seaman, who has vigorously pushed Las Vegas officials to reach a settlement, told the Review-Journal on Thursday that the city faces a shortfall of nearly $100 million in legal damages, including interest fees, and noted that a resolution would save Las Vegas from “bankruptcy,” while allowing the shuttered golf course “to develop into something beautiful for Ward 2.”

“The city’s financial hole keeps getting bigger with each lawsuit. We can’t continue to kick the can down the road and hope for the best,” Seaman wrote in an text message. “With our continuing losses, it’s time for the mayor, city, attorney, city manager, and my fellow city council members to understand the need to resolve this issue and work with me towards that goal.”

All told, there are four lawsuits in various stages of litigation over the city’s rejection of development proposals for the 250-acre Badlands course, which was purchased by EHB in 2015. In three of the cases, judges have found the city improperly took land from the developer. The fourth case is pending.

The city has had opportunities to settle the case, but none has been approved. A proposed $64 million settlement stalled this summer after the city changed the terms of the deal, Lowie told the Review-Journal in August.

“We’re begging to settle,” said Ghanem on Wednesday. “They (city officials) have shirked their responsibilities. I don’t know what the endgame is.”

Added Ghanem: “It’s fortunate that we have people who are willing to stand up against government predation.”

The City Council in October voted to allocate up to $2 million for three outside law firms to represent it in the lawsuits this fiscal year, which ends on June 30. Seaman has criticized the city for hiring outside law firms when it has in-house attorneys.

By the end of November, Las Vegas had spent a total of $5,450,289 in fees for attorneys, consultants and city staff, according to city figures.

Las Vegas — with operating and capital budgets totaling nearly $2 billion for fiscal year 2023 — is home to 667,679 residents, according to city-provided figures.

Contact Steve Sebelius at SSebelius@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0253. Follow @SteveSebelius on Twitter. Contact Ricardo Torres-Cortez at rtorres@reviewjournal.com Follow him on Twitter @rickytwrites.

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