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Judge orders city to pay developer $34M in Badlands dispute

Updated October 29, 2021 - 2:23 pm

The city of Las Vegas must pay more than $34 million to the developer behind stalled housing planned for the defunct Badlands Golf Club course, a judgment that could potentially signal even more significant damages to come.

District Court Judge Timothy Williams, who found the city liable for a so-called government taking late last month, awarded the multi-million dollar judgment on Thursday to 180 Land Co. LLC., a company belonging to developer EHB Cos. The $34.1 million judgment excluded attorney fees, court records show.

The judgment stems from a 2017 case involving a nearly 35-acre parcel at the intersection of Hualapai Way and Alta Drive near Summerlin.

“We certainly are hopeful that this court’s decision will encourage the city to a global resolution in all matters,” EHB attorney Elizabeth Ghanem said Friday. “Nobody wants to litigate. We had no choice.”

EHB had sought to construct housing on the closed golf course after its 2015 purchase of the 250-acre plot winding through the upscale Queensridge neighborhood, setting off a bitter showdown with neighbors and city lawmakers.

Nearly all of its development plans stalled at City Hall over disagreements about whether city zoning permitted housing or only open-space projects. A barrage of developer lawsuits followed, including four cases that accused the city of illegally interfering with development to the point that it made the land impossible to build upon.

Each of those cases, identical in allegations, covered a different parcel on the property. While the 35-acre parcel lawsuit has now been adjudicated — although the City Council voted earlier this month to appeal Williams’ ruling — cases that involve parcels of 133, 65 and 17 acres remain undecided.

Fear of bigger liability

The pending rulings raise concern that the already significant damages to city taxpayers will grow.

“We are wasting taxpayer money and it is time to come to the table, no matter what’s happened in the past, and make it right,” Councilwoman Victoria Seaman said Friday.

Seaman, who represents the district where the property is located, ran a special election campaign in 2019 that largely centered on her vow to settle the dispute to protect taxpayers. But she has thus far been unable to secure majority support from fellow city lawmakers, she said.

She has consistently voted to approve legal fees to fight developer-initiated litigation, saying she could not rein in the city’s legal team while there is no settlement. The city has spent more than $4 million on related court costs and staff expenses since fiscal year 2015, according to city-provided figures.

“I’m going to continue to push for (a resolution) until our council comes together with our attorneys and says we need to sit down and settle,” Seaman said.

The city declined to comment on the judgment, citing its practice of not speaking publicly about ongoing or pending litigation.

Appetite to settle?

A global resolution would appear at odds with previous sentiment from the developer’s chief executive. EHB CEO Yohan Lowie vowed in February 2020 to see litigation through and said he was interested only in talks with city officials on laws to prevent the council from repeating its actions in the future.

“The city’s in a world of hurt and we intend to prosecute it,” Lowie said at the time.

Lowie did not return a message Friday seeking comment. He has previously said that he could no longer develop on the land due to the city’s actions and a changed real estate market.

But Ghanem, the company’s attorney, indicated development of the site remains possible when asked Friday about the future of the property.

“It’s all up for consideration,” she said, adding that such talk is “a bit premature.”

Contact Shea Johnson at sjohnson@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0272. Follow @Shea_LVRJ on Twitter.

https://www.scribd.com/document/535812978/Badlands-Decision

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