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Taxpayers will continue to foot multi-million-dollar bill as city votes to appeal Badlands ruling

Posted at 7:53 PM, Oct 06, 2021

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — The city just seems to be throwing good money after bad in the battle over Badlands.

The council's vote to appeal last week's court ruling that found the city illegally took the land from the developer means taxpayers are going to be sunk even deeper into what's already a multi-million-dollar hole.

Clark County District Court Judge Timothy Williams said on Sept. 28, "I think under the vast facts and circumstances, it's pretty clear that we had a taking."

That could have been the end of at least part of a years-long battle over the defunct Badlands golf course.

Instead, council members voted 6-1 to appeal after the city attorney said he considers Judge Williams' ruling to be legally improper.

"We have been dealing with this for such a long time and the ultimate decision is with the Nevada Supreme Court," Mayor Carolyn Goodman said in Wednesday's City Council meeting.

The District Court ruled city leaders took developer Yohan Lowie's private property for public use.

Lowie bought the land in 2015 and the city approved his plan to turn the defunct golf course into luxury homes and tree-lined walking paths.

But high-powered Queensridge homeowners fought it, effectively halting development and turning the property into a wasteland.

Councilwoman Victoria Seaman ran for office in a special election two years ago on the premise of resolving the Badlands battle.

"My contention then, as it still is today, is that we must get together with the developer and find a resolution, or the taxpayers could end up someday footing the bill for a government taking," Seaman said.

Taxpayers have already footed more than $4 million in legal bills.

Despite that, Seaman voted to appeal and spend more, saying she has no choice but to continue on.

"I have been told the city has reached out to the developer and the developer has expressed no interest in settling this matter out of court."

"That's just not true," countered Elizabeth Ghanem, an attorney for Yohan Lowie's EHB Companies.

"We have always wanted to develop this land. We have been attempting to do it for over five years. And there has been no effort on behalf of the city, who has told us repeatedly that they just didn't have the votes," meaning they didn't enough votes among council members to approve a good faith settlement.

"All they've offered is the same thing that they should have done to begin with. And that is abide by their own code and the laws and honor the rights that we have — the property rights that we have. So, taking us back five years after all the damage that they've caused, and delay, and cost to everyone — the taxpayers and this company — is not a good faith offer," said Ghanem.

Councilwoman Michele Fiore cast the lone vote against the appeal, saying she thinks the tally to taxpayers is closer to $10 million since the Badlands battle began.

"And that's on you, the taxpayers," Fiore said. "And that's including my ward constituency. So I will not be voting yes today to go forth, because this has to stop. Unfortunately, past councils have made political mistakes and it has cost the taxpayers millions and it's going to continue costing the taxpayers millions."

In November, a jury will decide just how much.

This case, involving 35 acres and 61 lots, is just one of many ongoing lawsuits between Lowie and the City of Las Vegas.

And the Nevada Supreme Court has already heard one appeal.

In March of last year, the court ruled that the development of Badlands should have been allowed all along.

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