By Chuck Muth
Back in October I wrote a detailed explanation of the ongoing brouhaha and bitter feud over development of the now-defunct Badlands golf course adjacent to a luxury gated community in northwest Las Vegas.
In the column I noted that the “Queensridge Quagmire” — if it continues on the current path — could potentially bankrupt the city of Las Vegas thanks to a “land snatch” ordinance adopted at the behest of former and disgraced City Councilman Steve Seroka.
The “Seroka Screw-Job” essentially used the power of government to “take” the land of developer Yohan Lowie and block him from building residential homes on it even though the land is zoned for… um, residential homes.
Mr. Lowie has, rightfully and understandably, sued the city over the ordinance — and everyone I’ve spoken with believes he’s going to win.
The city has spent hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars already on the lawsuit and could lose MILLIONS of dollars in damages if, as expected, Mr. Lowie prevails — money the city does not have.
A municipal bankruptcy like Detroit is not out of the question. That’s how serious and dangerous this mess is if someone doesn’t step in and fix it.
Enter Las Vegas City Councilwoman Victoria Seaman. Ms. Seaman won the city council seat that represents the Queensridge community last June. And she has proposed repealing and replacing the Seroka Screw-Job ordinance with something that could potentially mitigate the financial threat to the city.
On Tuesday night she entered the lion’s den and attempted to explain the ordinance change to several dozen Queensridge home-owners at a town hall meeting held at the West Sahara Library.
“I wanted an opportunity to show them exactly what we’re doing,” the councilwoman explained to Las Vegas Sun reporter Miranda Willson. It didn’t go well.
The unruly mob that showed up — gratefully without torches and pitchforks — couldn’t care less about the financial threat to every other taxpayer in the city. Damn it, they want their golf course view back! Well, they ain’t gettin’ it. That ship has sailed.
The Badlands Golf Club was bleeding red ink for years, and no one’s stupid enough to reopen it as a golf course — including the wealthy home-owners who are doing all the belly-aching.
And Mr. Lowie, rightfully and understandably, isn’t going to “repurpose” the shuttered golf course into an open-air park, especially if neither the city nor the home-owners are willing to pay him a fair and equitable price for the land.
The city doesn’t have the money, even if it wanted to. And the home-owners, who feel “entitled” to the land, won’t cough up the dough. Their attitude is: “I want it all, I want it all, and I want it now.”
But back to Councilwoman Seaman’s town hall meeting… Every swamp needs an ogre. And in the case of the Queensridge Quagmire that role is being played by a high-powered lawyer named Frank A. Schreck of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck.
But that’s too long, including the name. So let’s just shorten the whole thing and refer to him as “Shrek.” Get it?
Anyway, Shrek has been actively involved in the lawsuits against the city on behalf of the home-owners and was at the meeting. I’d never met him before. Never heard him speak before. But I attended the town hall… and took an immediate disliking to the guy.
He was rude, obnoxious, belligerent, confrontational and insulting to the city staff who were with Councilwoman Seaman in an effort to explain the need for the repeal-and-replace ordinance proposal. But the crowd loved him.
The cultish atmosphere was like a Branch Davidian reunion. And the insufferable Shrek clearly reveled in the adoration.
The Ringmaster General constantly interrupted the conversation from his seat in the peanut gallery; not only when Councilwoman Seaman and city staffers were speaking, but even when other attendees tried to ask questions from the microphone set up at the back of the room.
This bully clearly has a Pied Piper complex.
But remember what happened. When the Pied Piper didn’t get his way, he used his magical flute to lure the town’s children into the river where they all drowned.
And if the residents of the Queensridge Quagmire aren’t careful, Shrek is liable to lead them right off a financial cliff. Indeed, the people of Queensridge should take this warning into consideration…
What if they continue to follow Shrek blindly? And what if they lose? And what if Mr. Lowie is awarded millions of dollars in damages? And what if the city creates a “special taxation district” just in Queensridge and forces the home-owners there to pay the bill rather than stick ALL of the city’s taxpayers with it? How much would THAT cost them?
It’s long past time to resolve this mess. And it’s a no-win situation for everyone concerned — except, perhaps, Mr. Lowie. Cooler heads need to prevail.
But for that to happen, the villagers of the Queensridge Quagmire probably need to banish the Badlands Ogre and send Shrek off to terrify some other swamp.
FAMOUS LAST WORDS
“Las Vegas so far has hired five private law firms for defense and allocated nearly $2 million in taxpayer dollars to the cause, spending nearly $963,000 in legal fees as of this month, according to city spokesman Jace Radke. ‘There’s no end in sight,’ Councilwoman Victoria Seaman said.” — Las Vegas Review-Journal, 10/11/19