Bad day at the Badlands for taxpayers; really good day for property owners

By Chuck Muth
Here’s the Readers Digest version of the ongoing brouhaha at the old Badlands Golf Course in northwest Las Vegas…
The course’s owner, EHB Cos., was losing its shirt in trying to profitably operate the golf course. So they shut it down a few years ago and sought to use the land for a residential home development – which is what the land was originally zoned for.
But some wealthy and politically-connected adjacent home owners, who didn’t want to lose the golf course views they’d become accustomed to, pressured the Las Vegas City Council to stonewall and block the development, costing the developer a fortune.
The developer sued, alleging the city council’s actions amounted to a government “taking” of the developer’s land without appropriate
compensation. The city’s taxpayers have since spent somewhere between $4 million and $10 million, depending on who you talk to, defending its land snatch.
Former Las Vegas City Councilman Bob Beers has long warned that the city was on the wrong side of this issue. He wrote back in 2019 that
“both the city attorney and the Planning Department agreed that the land was still zoned residential” and that “zoning, once granted,
doesn’t change.”
Last week, a district court judge issued a ruling that pretty much everybody involved in the dispute, especially Mr. Beers, saw coming a
mile away… Yep, the city screwed up.
”I think under the vast facts and circumstances,” District Judge Timothy Williams declared in his ruling, “it’s pretty clear that we had a taking.” Amen
”Fighting the government and politically connected people who threatened to take our land early on is no easy feat,” Vickie DeHart,
a principal with the developer said after the ruling. ”It is wonderful to see justice prevail and the courts uphold our constitutional rights. A win for us is a win for all landowners.” Amen.
That ruling was the first in four separate “reverse condemnation” suits on four separate parcels that make up the old Badlands golf course. And odds are the city is going to lose the other three as well, which could end up costing city taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in damages.
HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS!
Hundreds of millions of dollars the city doesn’t have. Which means city taxpayers will likely end up with some huge tax hikes to pay for it.
”The city may have an appeal in mind, but that would be a colossal waste,” editorialized the Las Vegas Review-Journal last weekend. ”At
this point, the City Council needs to minimize the damage and do what it should have done years ago: See what EHB will accept to make this
whole fiasco go away.” Amen.
But rather than follow the RJ’s advice, cut its already substantial losses and settle up with the developer, the city council on Wednesday
foolishly voted 6-1 to continue the legal fight and appeal the ruling, with Councilwoman Michele Fiore being the only sane vote.
”This has to stop,” Fiore said. “Unfortunately, past councils have made political mistakes and it has cost the taxpayers millions and
it’s going to continue costing taxpayers millions. So I am not in support of continuing this battle.”
Amen.
Lawyers I’ve spoken with who have been following the case essentially say you have a better chance of hitting the Powerball jackpot than the
city has of winning its appeal. But what the hell. It’s only taxpayer money, right?
This may be an issue specifically for Las Vegas, but the fight for private property rights against government abuse is EVERYBODY’S fight.
We wish EHB continued success in this David vs. Goliath battle.
 And in conclusion: Let’s go, Brandon!
* * * * *
Chuck Muth is president of Citizen Outreach, publisher of Nevada News
& Views and blogs at MuthsTruths.com

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