August 3, 2022 - 4:18 pm
Updated August 3, 2022 - 5:02 pm
Late last month, the city of Las Vegas approached the developer trying to build on the defunct Badlands golf course and proposed a settlement to resolve the two parties’ years-long legal dispute.
The developer, 180 Land Company LLC, reluctantly agreed with the terms of a $64 million settlement and land-use entitlements, said Yohan Lowie, CEO of EHB Cos., the parent company of the Badlands proposal.
“We were sure it was coming to a resolution,” said Lowie.
But earlier this week, he said, before the City Council was set to discuss the settlement Wednesday, Las Vegas officials made a last-minute change to a key term of the agreement, which upended the deal.
Lowie said that the city had agreed to pay the money within 10 days. But on Monday, the city came back and said payment was contingent on the approval of development entitlements at a later date, he added.
At the same time, he said, the company was told by the city that the council did not have enough votes to approve those entitlements. But, Lowie said, the city told the company to agree to the new terms, or that the discussion would be stricken from the agenda, Lowie said.
And that is what happened Wednesday.
Councilwoman Victoria Seaman, who brought the settlement agreement to the council, said she was disappointed with the collapse of talks.
“After working with all parties, I thought the foundation of the deal seemed ripe and ready to come before this council today for further consideration and continued discussion,” Seaman said. “An agreement that would end all litigation and begin the process of developing Badlands into something beautiful and productive for the community.”
“I am disappointed that we will not have a chance to move forward with the settlement at this time,” Seaman added. “Regrettably, this matter will continue to work through our courts, and unless both sides’ legal teams can find common ground, it appears we will continue down that path.”
While the council discussion was canceled, Vickie Dehart — a partner with EHB Cos — took to a microphone during public comment, alleging that the city had changed the terms of the proposed deal.
She explained that the city on July 22 had emailed 180 Land Company LLC with the settlement contract, with terms officials had signed off on.
Her short speaking time ended as she tried to explain how the breakdown happened, but she noted that the alleged change the city made Tuesday “wasn’t the intent of the agreement.”
“If we want the litigation to go away, we would like to wish this would have come forward and have a vote and so we could hear where everyone stands on it,” Dehart said. “But the city has chosen,” she said before Mayor Carolyn Goodman told her that her public speaking time was up.
Lowie, who said that the city had pulled similar moves about a half-dozen times before, comparing the situation to the “Peanuts” cartoon where Lucy repeatedly pulls the football away before Charlie Brown can kick it.
A city spokesman declined to comment on Lowie’s allegations.
Settling all claims
The proposed settlement would have encompassed a $49 million court-ordered judgment in a lawsuit that is on appeal with the Nevada Supreme Court, $15 million to build a drainage facility on the property and the developmenet entitlements. The settlement would have dismissed four separate lawsuits pending against the city.
Lowie said that the drainage costs were estimated at $40 million, but that the company had agreed to pay the difference in the spirit of finally resolving the dispute.
Asked if the company would agree with the same settlement if the city put it back on the table, he said he did not know.
“We’re just tired of the whole process,” he said.
Plans to build at the 250-acre plot of land began to stall shortly after the 2015 purchase, when a coalition of residents of the upscale Queensridge neighborhood near Summerlin — which surrounds the course — objected, citing fears of high density and dwindling property values. Subsequent disagreements at City Hall about zoning led to a series of lawsuits.
He said no settlement or court judgement can make the development project whole again.
“They can never put us back into where we need to be,” he added, noting that the company missed a stronger market with lower building costs and interest while fighting with City Hall.
“They couldn’t get out of their way,” he said about the council. “This is the city that never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity.”