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Las Vegas City Council votes to appeal Badlands ruling to Supreme Court

Updated October 6, 2021 - 6:19 pm

Las Vegas city officials will contest a recent court ruling in a long-stewing clash with the owner of the former Badlands Golf Club, seeking to curtail the liability to city taxpayers who have already footed the bill for millions of dollars in legal fees.

Clark County District Court Judge Timothy Williams ruled Sept. 28 in favor of EHB Cos., which accused the city of “taking” 35 acres through actions that made the developer’s land impossible to develop.

The council voted 6-1 on Wednesday to appeal to the Nevada Supreme Court.

EHB had proposed housing plans on the defunct golf course near Summerlin and later sued the city in 2017 after contending that lengthy delays and denials from City Hall were unnecessary and aimed at preserving the private land’s use for the surrounding public.

The city attorney’s office said it believed the lower court ruling to be “legally improper.”

Councilwoman Victoria Seaman, who represents the district where the expensive land-use battle has been waged, called upon the city to once more reach out to the developer before filing its appeal.

“The city council has an opportunity to correct the mistakes of the past councils,” she said.

Seaman has pressed for settling the dispute since running for office in a special election more than two years ago. She noted that taxpayers could end up paying for a government taking.

“The recent court ruling has put that reality more into focus today,” she said.

Seaman also sponsored city-approved bills that scrapped and replaced stringent rules on developing golf courses and open spaces in January 2020, saying they eliminated burdensome regulations but maintained government oversight.

City lawmakers have frequently approved spending more money to fight at least a dozen Badlands-related cases in court. Seaman has often paired her reluctant “yes” votes with calls for resolution, although any agreement outside of court to stop the bleeding appears unlikely. EHB CEO Yohan Lowie told the Las Vegas Review-Journal last year that “we don’t trust the city one bit.”

“I must vote for the appeal because I work for the city taxpayers and at this point I believe that we have to continue on,” Seaman said Wednesday.

‘This has to stop’

Las Vegas has paid more than $4 million in legal fees and staff expenses on Badlands litigation since fiscal year 2015, according to city-provided figures. Councilwoman Michele Fiore, the lone dissenter on appealing the recent court ruling, claimed the real number is about $10 million.

“This has to stop and unfortunately past councils have made political mistakes, and it has cost the taxpayers millions and it’s going to continue costing taxpayers millions,” she said. “So I am not in support to continue this battle. I am in support in making the city whole.”

The court case in question is only one of four similar so-called inverse condemnation cases filed by EHB, with each representing a different parcel adding up to 250 acres for the full golf course plot. The other three lawsuits remain pending. A favorable ruling to the city in December regarding a 65-acre parcel was later reopened.

It is not clear how much the city could be ordered to pay if it were to lose the other cases, and if the recent ruling is not overturned, but Seaman said she has heard projections in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Lowie said last year he believed the city would be liable for more than $1 billion.

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

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