One hundred years ago, Charles E. Weller coined the phrase, “Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of the party.” I want to borrow that phrase and modify it for a real-life problem: “Now is the time for all good council members to come to the aid of Las Vegas.”
The city of Las Vegas is involved in eight lawsuits over the Badlands Golf Course. Three were initiated by various homeowners, and five were the result of legal action by the owner of the land that the golf course occupies. The city attorney represents the city in three of these cases. But because of the complexities of the issue, the city has retained private attorneys in the other five.
One of these cases is before the Nevada Supreme Court, six are in Clark County District Court, and one is in federal court. The city is probably looking at a minimum of $1 million in legal fees paid to outside counsel, and that figure will rise continually.
But there is a simple and very achievable solution to this problem. The city should swap a comparable amount of land that currently constitutes Angel Park Golf Course for property from Badlands Golf Course and operate Badlands as a municipal course. All these lawsuits would then go away.
Consider that the three lawsuits against the city initiated by the various landowners are relatively benign. If the city loses them, however, the developer will incorporate those losses in his other litigation. We will then be looking at defending eight lawsuits filed by the developer. If we lose any of the suits brought by the developer, the city could, potentially, see a judgment of up to $250 million.
The twists and turns in all these cases are bizarre. Both sides have had one win in court. The city attorney and his staff believe the developer has the right to develop the property. The Planning Department believes the developer has the right to develop the property. Finally, every homeowner in the affected areas was made aware that the conditions, covenants and restrictions allowed the Badlands course to be developed at a future date.
One District Court judge has sided with the homeowners, and that case has been appealed to the Nevada Supreme Court. Another District Court judge has sided with the developer. There is no “settled law” as precedence. Until the Nevada Supreme Court rules, there is no precedent for other judges to follow unless an injunction is issued in the federal court restraining the District Court cases. We have a nightmare for the city and a dream scenario for attorneys.
It does not matter who is correct. The city is the entity guaranteed to lose no matter the outcome. The city will lose to either the developers or the homeowners. We are in an untenable position. It is past time this matter is settled and we stop the “my lawyer is better than your lawyer” game. Under the current scenario, the only winners will be the attorneys.
The city-owned Angel Park courses are directly north and east of Badlands. Angel Park loses money every year and is a drain on the city’s budget. Badlands was a public golf course that also lost money before its closing. The land swap makes sense and would allow Badlands to be an amazing golf course once again.
Of course, it is not that easy. There are myriad complications. The No. 1 hurdle is checking some egos at the door. The obstacles are surmountable, however, and I believe we can find a solution.
The reality is, nobody is trying to compromise. All of the litigants think they are correct and will win. The city is stuck in the middle. But instead of letting the courts dictate what happens and taking the chance of having to pay millions of dollars — perhaps hundreds of millions of dollars — the City Council needs to come up with creative solutions.
All our citizens will be on the hook for any judgment the city is required to pay. Every member of the City Council should be actively involved in finding a solution to this problem. We have a similar problem in Ward 6 with the Silverstone community and would welcome any suggestions.
It is time we work together as a City Council instead of acting as individual members concerned only about what happens in our own wards.
Michele Fiore represents Ward 6 on the Las Vegas City Council.