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Las Vegas allocates another $2M to Badlands legal fight

Updated October 19, 2022 - 4:07 pm

The city of Las Vegas on Wednesday allocated up to $2 million to three law firms defending it in litigation with the would-be developer of the defunct Badlands golf course.

Although Councilwomen Victoria Seaman and Michele Fiore said Wednesday they weren’t in support of funding the outside counsel, the motion passed unanimously as part of the consent agenda, where a long list of items are approved in a single vote.

The legal funds had previously been approved by the City Council as part of fiscal year 2023, Assistant City Attorney Jeffrey Dorocak told lawmakers. The vote Wednesday was to allocate the money to Leonard Law in Reno, McDonald Carano in Las Vegas, and Mihaly & Weinberger in San Francisco.

Since 2015, the city had spent more than $5 million, when the legal fight with the developer began, according to a budget document the city provided to the Review-Journal. Wednesday’s vote brings the total fees to about $7 million.

“The spending on lawyers is the most outrageous waste of taxpayer money,” said Seaman, adding that the city has more than a dozen in-house attorneys. “I’m not going to participate in throwing more of our taxpayer money in a dark hole with no sign of success.”

She noted that three different courts had already ruled against the city with three out of the four lawsuits filed by 180 Land Company LLC, a subsidiary of EHB Cos.

It’s not clear how much the city could end up paying in legal settlements, although the total cost could be well in excess of the $64 million proposed settlement for all four lawsuits that fell apart this summer.

In late September, a District Court judge ruled that the city inappropriately took 17 acres from the developer that it had previously approved for hundreds of luxury condominiums. An attorney representing EHB Cos., which is headed by developer Yohan Lowie, told the Review-Journal that the city could end up paying upwards of $50 million for that lawsuit.

This was in addition to two separate rulings on similar grounds in July, and in 2021, when a court ordered the city to pay $34 million. The city is appealing that ruling.

The legal battle began after EHB Cos. bought the about 250 acres of land with the intention of building homes. But residents of the Queensridge neighborhood, which surrounds the old golf course, quickly objected, citing fears of high density and loss of property values.

The city approved land entitlements, but the project stalled at City Hall over disagreements over zoning.

Seaman implored for her colleagues to “come to the table” for new settlement negotiations with the developer.

“As elected officials, I’m asking all colleagues on this council: would you be digging deeper and spending more in this lost cause if it were your money?”

Contact Ricardo Torres-Cortez at rtorres@reviewjournal.com Follow him on Twitter @rickytwrites.

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