WHY DID THE NEW LANDOWNER CLOSE THE BADLANDS GOLF COURSE?
It was losing money. Golf course closures are a frequent topic of city governments in the 2010s all over America. It’s worse in Las Vegas because we “front-loaded” water infrastructure costs into water rates twenty years ago. The cost-per-gallon for golf courses drove the green, as golfers say.
The money generated from those rates has been used to construct massive public works that today include redundant feeder pipes to Lake Mead, and triple-redundant intakes to pull water into those feeder pipes. The last of these intakes is so deep that California and Arizona will run out of Colorado water before Nevada will. But it’s made water very expensive, and golf courses consume a lot of water.
CAN THE CITY COUNCIL STOP THE DEVELOPER FROM BUILDING NEW HOUSES ON THE GOLF COURSE?
Under Nevada (and all the other) state laws, cities grant or deny the right to construct buildings on land. Once granted, the rights immediately have economic value – that is, land without a right to build is worth less per acre than land that has a right to build. Once granted, if a city were to deny the land right it issued before, the courts are clear that it is a “taking”. The party that was denied the development right can sue and recover all of their losses.
In the case of Badlands, even a District Court judge has now ruled (on Jan. 31, 2017) that the arguments being made the opposition group are without legal merit. The development rights were granted more than 30 years ago, but they live forever.
With that background, the answer to this question is yes, the City Council can simply turn down the developer’s application to build. This infringes on the now-clear right to develop, so the developer can sue and taxpayers will write a big check.
YOU KEEP SAYING A BIG CHECK. PLEASE BE SPECIFIC.
If past experience is any indicator, the property owner will not settle for a lesser amount and will demand a jury trial. The law specifies the taking must be paid at fair market value. Acres up at the Summit are going for $2-million/acre, but this isn’t the summit. Still, if the fair value was 25% that, the fair market value of Badlands would be more than $100-million.
WOULDN’T A JURY ORDER DEVELOPMENT UNDER THE ZONING INSTEAD OF A HEFTY CASH PAYMENT?
No. The property owner has no lawsuit until the existing development right is denied. Juries are not allowed to reverse a “legislative” decision. They can only order reparations.
IF THE CITY HAS A MASTER PLAN, HOW CAN THIS DEVELOPER NOT FOLLOW IT AND BUILD OUTSIDE OF IT?
When you say ‘Master Plan’ you have to be more specific. Sometimes it is used to mean the plan a large landowner files with the city describing what they are planning for a particular area. The select few mean the “General Plan,” which is a conceptual design plan. State law is clear that if the General Plan is in conflict with zoning, the zoning overrides.
In the case of Badlands, the golf course has, over the years, carried different designations from Medium Residential to its current designation, Parks Recreation and Open Space. Throughout, it has been consistently zoned Residential. However, Nevada law requires cities to choose the zoning (Residential) over the General Plan designation when they conflict. While some advocate following the “general plan” over the zoning, this is illegal and would cost taxpayers a very large settlement.
SINCE THE CURRENT HOMEOWNERS WERE THERE FIRST AND BOUGHT HOMES BECAUSE THEY’RE ON A GOLF COURSE, HOW CAN A DEVELOPER BE ALLOWED TO BUILD HOUSES NEXT TO THEM? DO THEY HAVE ANY RECOURSE OR ACTION THEY CAN TAKE?
Real Estate law in Nevada (and in most states) does not grant a property owner any rights over adjacent property. Thus, the city cannot use any rights claimed by adjacent homeowners to shield it from paying for a “taking”.
An adjacent homeowner may still have a cause of action against whoever they bought their home from. The city would not be party to such a lawsuit. If you feel you might have such a cause of action, you should consult an attorney.
HOW WILL THIS AFFECT PROPERTY VALUES ELSEWHERE IN WARD 2?
For most homes and apartments, there won’t be any impact. There has not been a measurable impact on prices for Queensridge homes not built on the golf course (Class B in the CC&R’s with about 900 members). Analysis of sales for course-side homes since the announcement that the course would close is difficult because sales slowed to a trickle. Planning experts say views are generally worth a 10%-15% view premium. The Clark County Assessor is routinely agreeing to drop the assessed values by 10%, for now.
For communities where the amenities are owned by the HOA (such as the Lakes, Canyon Gate, Sun City, etc.) property values may go up because those amenities are owned by homeowners. Increases in dues may be easier than closing down an amenity.
IF THE DEVELOPER BUILDS AT BADLANDS, WILL OTHER DEVELOPERS BE ALLOWED TO BUILD ANYWHERE THEY WANT IN OTHER NEIGHBORHOODS?
Owners of vacant land in all parts of the city, including Ward 2, can ask the city for permission to build something. If granted, all development is subject to Title 19 and the City’s development codes.
Nevada (and most states) expect a purchaser of real estate to be fully aware of the zoning status of whatever’s next to it. You can explore the Clark County Assessor’s website to understand the status of any land in the City.
CAN THE CITY COUNCIL MAKE THE DEVELOPER SELL THE LAND?
CAN THE CITY PURCHASE THE LAND AND MAKE IT A PARK?
Yes but with 250 acres the cost would be enormous. Depending on the nature of the public park estimates range as high as $200+ Million. This money is not in the budget and is equal to about 40% of the city’s annual general fund. No estimate has yet been developed on the ongoing costs of operation and maintenance. By comparison, Lorenzi Park is 60-acres.
WHAT WILL BE THE EFFECT OF BUILDING HOUSES ON TRAFFIC, ESPECIALLY AT ALTA AND RAMPART?
The developer commissioned a traffic study which was reviewed first by City engineers, then by an independent third party engineering firm. This study assigns theoretical traffic flows to each already approved project and the new proposal, then layers this traffic load onto a model of the current traffic flows. The result projects that while traffic will get busier, even in rush hour traffic will not have to wait more than one light to get through which is the standard traffic engineers use to assign pass/fail to new projects. This traffic study is available online at the city website if you would like to look through it.
WHO WILL PAY FOR ANY CHANGES TO STREETS AND ROADWAYS AROUND BADLANDS GOLF COURSE AND QUEENSRIDGE?
Changes to infrastructure of the property will be the responsibility of the developer, such as the costs of storm drainage, interior roads and infrastructure. As individual parcels are approved, costs of infrastructure improvements outside the private property should become shifted to the developer, but the requests so far are so far under rush-hour capacity that no such public infrastructure improvements are needed. Every application’s traffic impact is weighed against this rush-hour capacity, and the closer it gets to capacity, the more likely the city can force the applicant to pitch in on public improvements.
This is the biggest reason the city pushed so hard to enter a “Development Agreement” for all 250-acres, as it gave us leverage to commit now. The development agreement withdrawn after HOA opposition included the developer’s commitment to pay for one-third of the cost of adding another dedicated right turn lane to go from Rampart to eastbound Summerlin Parkway, should the expansion be necessary in the future. I hope to see this provision a part of the final Development Agreement should one be reached.
THE DEVELOPMENT OPPOSITION SAY THERE’S A PROBLEM WITH SCHOOL OVERCROWDING. TRUE?
It is not true. CCSD says its formula indicates the 3,000 units originally proposed would produce about 500 new students K-12. However, they acknowledge their formula is based on valley-wide averages for homes and apartments, and does not take into consideration how many wealthy families opt out of public school. For example, children in Queensridge are zoned to Bonner Elementary. The CCSD formula projects about 240 Bonner students from Queensridge today, but less than 80 are actually enrolled. Thus the 500 student impact from the formula is likely exaggerated by 300%.
Though Bonner is farther away for most Queensridge children who participate in public school than Piggot Elementary in Peccole Ranch, Piggot was converted to a college-bound magnet school last year due to falling enrollment.