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With water off, Badlands golf course fight turns back on

It’s like clockwork. The sun begins its descent beyond Mount Charleston, and bunnies bound into Eva Thomas’ west valley backyard from the Badlands Golf Club next door.

Thomas’ home sits in a cul-de-sac and backs up to the shuttered golf course in Las Vegas’ Queensridge development. Her view to the east is a wide expanse of yellow grass; only the pin indicates a patch of grass that was once one of the course’s greens.

“Everything is dead,” Thomas said. “We understand the golf course is gone. They’re going to build houses. But turn the water on for the animals.”

The water was turned off at the course earlier this summer, prompting Thomas and her granddaughter Zoey Nino to fill plastic containers with water and place them around the backyard for the animals that inhabit the golf course. On Thursday at dusk, seven bunnies drank water and munched on her grass while a number of birds perched nearby.

Plans to develop the golf course have divided residents of Queensridge, which is entwined with the course, since it was sold two years ago. The course was operational until late last year, and the water stayed on until last month.

Unlike other golf courses that have closed in Las Vegas where “the water is immediately shut off, the owner kept the water on for two years at a significant cost,” developer EHB Cos. principal Vickie DeHart said in a statement Friday.

Back to council

Plans to develop the Badlands course return Wednesday to the City Council for the fourth time in nine months, but it’s a slightly different council.

Most notably, Steve Seroka now represents the part of Las Vegas that is home to the golf course. Seroka ousted Bob Beers from office in a race in which the Badlands development drove the rhetoric and spending.

The council fractured in the past over plans to develop the shuttered course. Beers and Steve Ross voted in February for a plan to put 435 for-sale condominiums at the course’s eastern edge. Both are now off the council, replaced by Seroka and Michele Fiore.

EHB Cos. bought the 250-acre golf course in 2015. In May, the firm submitted plans to the city for a nongaming, 130-room boutique hotel and more than 1,600 multifamily units on roughly 50 acres. Under those plans, an additional 65 single-family homes would be spread across 180 acres, aimed at buffering the existing Queensridge homes from the more densely populated development. Those plans are included with the council’s agenda materials for Wednesday’s meeting.

The development plans the council mulled last month represented a drop of roughly 900 residential units and a tower since the first proposal was submitted to the city well over a year ago.

City Attorney Brad Jerbic said Thursday that there will “definitely be changes” to the agreement that went before the council the last time.

Late modifications of the plans have happened before. When the council approved the 435 condos for the corner of Rampart Boulevard and Alta Drive in February, the scaled-back number was a late change.

“The owner has agreed to changes throughout the development agreement process at the request of the city and homeowners,” DeHart said in a statement. “We feel that we have a solid, final agreement.”

A number of Queensridge residents have railed against plans to develop the course since the first proposal. City Council and Planning Commission meetings at which the topic comes up have been long and dramatic, filled with hours of public comment from both sides. Many of the impassioned stakeholders on both sides of the issue have become regulars at the podium in City Council chambers.

Stakeholders on both sides continue to lobby council members for a favorable vote. Councilman Bob Coffin has meetings with both sides Tuesday, he said.

EHB Cos. CEO Yohan Lowie threatened to stop watering the golf course, withdraw the plan and sell the land if the council delayed the vote June 21. Development opponents urged the council to hold off until after Fiore and Seroka were seated.

The council shot down a series of measures that would have allowed 61 homes to be built on 34 acres of the former course, and a vote on the larger development agreement was delayed.

Seroka weighs in

The Badlands issue heavily influenced the Ward 2 City Council race, in which Seroka triumphed.

Seroka was “moved to run when confronted with the prospect of thousands of new apartments, right at his very doorstep,” according to the January news release announcing his run for the Ward 2 seat.

Throughout the campaign, Seroka repeatedly criticized Beers for being cozy with the developers. But now, out of campaign mode and in a City Hall office, Seroka said last week he’s “hearing from everybody.”

“I’m truly listening to all sides,” Seroka said. “I have an open door.”

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

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