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Badlands developer has string of lawsuits against Las Vegas

Updated March 23, 2018 - 8:54 pm

The company seeking to develop the Badlands golf course is suing Las Vegas, alleging the city delayed a decision on the plans to adopt an ordinance that will “severely delay and ultimately prevent development of the property.”

It’s one in a string of lawsuits that’s been filed in a contentious battle over plans to develop the west valley property. Meanwhile, another set of development plans for the course sits pending at City Hall, delayed last month to a May City Council meeting agenda.

“This is entirely in the hands of the courts,” Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman said. “A (City Council) vote is not going to resolve this.”

The newest lawsuit, filed Monday in Clark County District Court, claims the city failed to act in a timely manner on the applications, violating state law and causing monthly damage to the company.

Another suit seeks millions of dollars in damages from the city, City Attorney Brad Jerbic told the City Council Wednesday, before the council took a vote on appealing a District Court judge’s ruling in a third case.

“We will fight that most forcefully,” Jerbic said.

EHB Cos. wants to put a residential development on the 250-acre former golf course, which some in the affluent surrounding Queensridge development vehemently oppose. Lawsuits naming the city have come from people on both sides of the issue.

The newest lawsuit contends the company has “been damaged in an amount in excess of $15,000” and seeks payment for that and attorneys’ fees.

It challenges a citywide policy that staffers has been working on for months governing the future development of golf courses and common open spaces. Residential projects on former golf courses and open spaces have been controversial valleywide.

Representatives for EHB Cos. have argued such a policy unfairly singles out their property. City planning staff have said a citywide policy would apply to 23 master development plan areas and special area plans.

The Hutchison & Steffen law firm is representing the developer in the newest lawsuit. Mark Hutchison, who continues to work as an attorney while serving as Nevada’s lieutenant governor, couldn’t be reached for comment.

“This puts our city in a very challenging position,” said Councilman Steve Seroka, gesturing to a pile of three Badlands-related lawsuits in his City Hall office during an interview Thursday.

Still, Seroka believes there can be “a win-win here,” he said. “The City Council’s role is to guide the community through challenges.”

Hutchison’s law firm sent letters to the city in February accusing Seroka, Councilman Bob Coffin and Las Vegas Planning Commissioner Christina Roush of being biased against the developer and threatening more litigation.

The Badlands issue has consumed thousands of hours of city staff time since the development plans emerged more than two years ago. As of a month ago, a city report showed city staff had spent 4,671 hours and the equivalent of nearly $420,000 in city salary and benefit costs on the issue since 2015.

No appeal by city

The city won’t appeal a ruling in another Badlands-related lawsuit that invalidates a condominium development the City Council approved on the golf course last year. The City Council split 3-3 in a Wednesday vote on whether to appeal the ruling; the tie vote killed the appeal.

“I am grateful the city’s resources will not be used against our residents and instead will be focused on defending the city against the developer’s pending multimillion-dollar litigation,” said Seroka, who voted against the appeal.

District Court Judge Jim Crockett sided with the Badlands neighbors opposed to the development plan. They had argued the city should have required the developer to submit a major modification to the master plan before the council OK’d plans for 435 condos on the golf course.

That February 2017 vote is the only council approval the developer has gotten to build on the course.

Jerbic told the council the city had a strong case to challenge the ruling, but he expects the developer, also a defendant in that lawsuit, to appeal to the Nevada Supreme Court regardless of the city’s decision.

Goodman and Councilwomen Lois Tarkanian and Michele Fiore voted to appeal the ruling.

“We need a seat at the table,” Goodman said. “We can’t take a chance.”

Contact Jamie Munks at jmunks@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0340. Follow @Journo_Jamie_ on Twitter.

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