Vegas planning commission divided on developing housing on Badlands Golf Course

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

A divided Las Vegas Planning Commission on Tuesday night approved a fraction of the more than 2,500 housing units proposed for the Badlands Golf Course after a marathon special meeting on the project.

A crowd of roughly 200 people, the majority of whom opposed the plan, wielded yellow signs that read “Hear our Voices” at the meeting.

The proposal for the west Las Vegas golf course calls for 75 estate lots, 2,400 multifamily units and a possible additional 200 assisted living units, for a total of up to 2,675 single- and multifamily units.

A majority of the commission denied some of a series of motions on the development proposal, including a major master-plan modification and a general plan amendment for the property. The approvals the commission granted the project pave the way for 720 units at the far east end of the golf course, located southwest of the intersection of Rampart Boulevard and Alta Drive.

The commission’s action isn’t final: The City Council will decide next month whether the changes are made to allow the development proposed by EHB Cos. to proceed.

City staff recommended approval of the application.

Commissioner Vicki Quinn, who said she was conflicted leading up to the vote, said that the development as proposed will “dramatically” change the quality of people’s lives in the area and that there was too much uncertainty for her to support it. Quinn and Commissioner Cedric Crear voted against the whole application Tuesday, including the measures that passed.

“I’m afraid to vote no because I’m afraid of what they’re going to get, and I’m afraid to vote yes because I’m afraid of what they’re going to get,” Quinn said.

One of the common refrains from opponents was that they’ve heard from the developer and city officials this is a “done deal,” with allegations that the developer has “cozy” relationships at City Hall that have seen this project receive special treatment.

Opponents cited concerns about “tanking” property values, drainage, increased traffic and incompatibility with the surrounding area.

“Frankly, I am dismayed by the inadequacies of this development agreement and urge you to recommend denial,” said attorney Shauna Hughes, who represents the Queensridge Homeowners Association.

EHB Cos., helmed by CEO Yohan Lowie, is the developer behind the proposal, which has stirred up consternation among Queensridge residents since the developer bought the golf course and has spurred two lawsuits.

“The golf course is going away,” said Chris Kaempfer, the attorney representing the developer. “It cannot be maintained, it cannot be saved, and that is the reality with which we must deal.”

Las Vegas City Attorney Brad Jerbic said because the Badlands course wasn’t designated, as other Las Vegas golf courses have been, as civic or open space use, the land can be developed, Jerbic said.

Whether the developer’s application will be approved is up to the Planning Commission and the City Council, Jerbic said.

“Something can happen here,” Jerbic said.

The Clark County School District weighed in this week on the development proposal, in the form of a letter Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky wrote Monday to Las Vegas City Manager Betsy Fretwell.

In the letter, Skorkowski predicted that the development would mean an additional 350 elementary school students, which would require a new elementary school or schools or “will require hundreds of students to be rezoned to other schools, the closest of which are already overcrowded.”

The prediction is based on the district’s “student yield” formula, which the district has used for decades, Skorkowsky wrote.

The district has entered memorandums of agreement with developers of the Tule Springs and Skye Canyon projects, the letter said.

Kaempfer said that he first saw the letter Tuesday but that the developer was willing to work with the district.

Several speakers weighed in for and against the proposal during the more than five-hour meeting. The project’s proponents said they’ve had good experiences with the developer, that they thought the plan would add vibrancy to the community and that the golf course is an eyesore. Proponents were outnumbered by the speakers who opposed the project.

James Jimmerson, who is representing the developers in the litigation, said EHB Cos. have built some of the best projects in Clark County and contended that opponents were disregarding facts.

“The facts are, this is a quality project,” Jimmerson said.

For resident Rick Kost, the commission’s decision is simple: “Do we Californicate Las Vegas?” he said. “I know what Irvine is. That’s why I don’t live there anymore.”