Fight between Badlands developer, residents has Las Vegas council caught in crossfire

A bitter battle over a proposal to develop the Badlands Golf Club will soon return to the Las Vegas City Council — a fight that has the council caught in its crossfire.

Council members told developer EHB Companies and opponents in the neighboring Queensridge community to settle their differences after an eight-hour meeting in November that left all sides exasperated.

Whether the sides will strike a deal by the time the council again takes up the proposal remains unclear. In the more than six weeks since the council’s directive to work together, the golf course ceased operation; a lawsuit over the development plans has been dismissed, and plans to develop another part of the course have been brought to City Hall.

EHB Companies’ proposal to build a 720-unit multifamily complex on 17 acres at the eastern tip of the property, at the corner of Alta Drive and Rampart Boulevard, is on the City Council’s Jan. 18 agenda. But Mayor Carolyn Goodman, one of the strongest voices for compromise on the issue, won’t be at that meeting, and it is unclear if the proposal is destined for another delay.

The two sides have railed against each other in court and at City Hall for more than a year. Councilwoman Lois Tarkanian said this issue is among the more controversial she’s seen during her 12-year tenure.

“It was sort of sad because a lot of those people have been good friends for years. It was sad that it seemed the sides weren’t listening to each other,” Tarkanian said.

Councilman Steve Ross said he wouldn’t rank the Badlands development “way up there” in terms of controversial issues the council has considered.

“It’s only super contentious because of the people who live in Queensridge,” Ross said.

In November, Goodman pushed for Frank Pankratz, EHB’s president of development, and Shauna Hughes, an attorney for the Queensridge Homeowners Association, to meet before the issue returned to the council.

Pankratz and Hughes met for the fifth time on Friday. EHB Companies CEO Yohan Lowie recently characterized those sessions as unproductive. Hughes did not respond to calls seeking comment on the talks.

Elaine Wenger-Roesener, the Queensridge Homeowners Association president, said Friday that it’s “premature” to say no headway has been made. She said that the homeowners association was “hopeful and appreciative” for more time to talk with the developers.

“The Queensridge community just wants a seat at the table, and to be considered,” Wenger-Roesener said. “This is an infill project in an established community, and we have grave concerns.”

Those concerns include the increased residential density’s effects on traffic, drainage and local schools.

NEW APPLICATION

Last month, the developers submitted an application to the city to develop another part of the 250-acre golf course.

An amendment to change the general plan designation from parks, recreation and open space to low-density residential on 167 acres at the southeast corner of the intersection is on the agenda for Tuesday’s Planning Commission meeting — but it will likely be delayed until February.

According to a city staff analysis of the new application, necessary documents, including a tentative map, weren’t submitted with the request “to depict how and where the residential density would be dispersed across the overall site.”

A neighborhood meeting about the new application is slated for Monday evening. More than 1,000 notices were mailed to nearby property owners, and 32 neighborhood associations were notified. The city planning department last week received at least eight protest postcards. One handwritten note asked, “Where’s the developer’s good faith negotiation required by city council?”

Lowie, who envisions a luxury housing complex that’s heavy on amenities, said he has continually met with resistance to any development on the golf course.

“We would love to negotiate with the HOA. We would love to come up with a solution everybody’s happy with,” Lowie said. “But in effect, there’s nobody to talk to.”

Lowie said he first wanted to develop the 720 units near Alta and Rampart and either keep 18 holes of the golf course or keep the area irrigated and green. But city officials wanted a comprehensive plan for the entire property, so he upped the the proposal to more than 3,000 units spread across the 250 acres.

A group of Queensridge homeowners, which includes well-known Las Vegas names like businessman Jack Binion and gaming attorney Frank Schreck, filed a lawsuit in December 2015 alleging the developers were trying to “camouflage their plans so as to circumvent the legal rights of abutting homeowners.”

When that lawsuit, which remains in play, was filed, the proposal was for more than 3,000 units. Last year that was decreased to nearly 2,700 units. The Planning Commission voted in October to approve a fraction of that development, and the developers withdrew everything except for the 720 units at Alta and Rampart.

The application has been delayed multiple times, and some council members have been firm that they want the two sides to compromise.

Councilman Bob Coffin has suggested a reworked plan that would preserve part of the golf course, allowing for development at the site while keeping a substantial amount of open space.

“I’m used to this. I’ve had friends on both sides of an issue before,” Coffin said, adding that if the two sides can’t reach a consensus, “sometimes it’s up to the elected officials to make someone see the other side.”

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

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