New Year’s Resolution: Make the Badlands Nightmare Go Away

(Chuck Muth) – The most under-reported aspect of the seemingly never-ending Battle of the Badlands – pitting home-owners of the gated luxury Queensridge community in northwest Las Vegas vs. the City of Las Vegas over the fate of a long-closed golf course – is the financial risk to ALL taxpayers of Las Vegas should the city, as expected by many, lose an ongoing lawsuit over the issue.

The potential hit to ALL taxpayers could run into the tens, if not hundreds of millions of dollars.

Depending on the outcome, that likely means ALL Las Vegas taxpayers are gonna be hit with a huge tax hike or, worse, the city could be forced into bankruptcy – just like Detroit a few years ago.

What do you think THAT would that do for home values, tourism and the economy here?

Making this bad situation worse is a particular ordinance – “The Seroka Screw-Job” – that was pushed through the city council a couple years ago by Steve Seroka, the disgraced former city councilman representing the Queensridge community in Ward 2 who quit last year under the cloud of an ethics and sex scandal.

Last June the voters of Ward 2 elected Victoria Seaman to represent them on the city council.  And as promised during her campaign, she’s been working to get everyone out of the Queensridge Quagmire.

To that end, Councilwoman Seaman sent out the following email this week…

“During my campaign I ran on the promise of finding a fair and reasonable resolution to the issues I inherited involving the future of the properties where the now closed Badlands golf course once operated. I am committed to that resolution being reached in a manner that involves all the parties.

“While I agree with many of the constituents living around the Badlands property whose primary concerns for resolving this issue are related to the crime and safety issues generated by the property continuing to deteriorate in the heart of Ward 2. I also believe, as the Councilwoman, I have the responsibility to do everything I can to protect the taxpayers, of not only Ward 2, but all of the City of Las Vegas from not only the endless legal bills but the potential multi-million dollar settlement this litigation could leave the city with.

“One of the first steps to that resolution involves changes to the City’s Open Space Ordinance. I requested these changes because I wanted to create a new ordinance that would continue to protect citizens by requiring all the same impact studies to take place and to keep the public role in the process, but to do it in a way that doesn’t stagnate development. Because this ordnance does not just affect the one piece of land where Badlands used to operate; it affects over 100 spaces across the city.

“These changes by no means create a rubber stamp for development at Badlands, or at any other open spaces across the city. Neither does it remove the public from having a role in the process. I strongly support the public meeting and notification parts of the ordinance, and I submitted a new ordinance that passed unanimously at the Planning Commission meeting on Nov. 26th reinstating those provisions back in the City code. This ensures that the public has a role in the re-purposing of any open space in the city.”

Good on her.  This mess has dragged on long enough and has already cost city taxpayers MILLIONS in legal fees.  Enough is enough.

It sucks that Councilwoman Seaman has to come in and clean up somebody else’s mess, but to paraphrase what Hyman Roth said to Michael Corleone in Godfather II, this is the business she’s chosen.

And that includes fixing the Seroka Screw-Job.

If you want to reach Councilwoman Seaman on this or any other issue, you can send an email to ward2@lasvegasnevada.gov or call her office at (702) 229-2420.

And if you want to get breaking news and email updates from us on this particular issue, you can sign up by going to: LandSnatch.com 

Mr. Muth is president of CitizenOutreach.org and publisher of NevadaNewsandViews.com.  He blogs at MuthsTruths.com.  His views are his own.

More About “The Ogre of the Badlands”

(Chuck Muth) – As noted in a recent Muth’s Truths column, the torch-and-pitchfork blood feud between the City of Las Vegas and a group of home owners in the tony gated community of Queensridge is being stoked constantly by a high-powered local attorney/ogre named Frank Schreck, a.k.a., “Shrek” for short.

Although well-known by political insiders in the Las Vegas community, many Queensridge residents don’t know much about the man they’ve unofficially anointed as their spokesperson and potential savior of their Badlands golf course views.

Well, here are a couple of things to chew on…

The first is something that came up at the “angry mob” meeting held before the holidays at the West Sahara Library which was hosted by City Councilwoman Victoria Seaman.

During one of Shrek’s many rude, bombastic interruptions, Ms. Seaman indicated that Shrek doesn’t actually live in the Queensridge Quagmire any longer.  He has property there, but has since moved elsewhere.

Interesting and significant if true.

Secondly, one of my intrepid readers sent me a link to a story from last spring that should set off warning bells for anyone trusting the motives and integrity of Shrek in this matter.

From an April 1, 2019 article published by Law.com…

“A group of former lawyers connected to Wynn Resorts were involved in long-running efforts to conceal allegations of sexual assault and misconduct against the casino giant’s founder, Steve Wynn, according to a report released Tuesday by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission. …

“Frank Schreck, chairman of the gaming practice at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, was involved in the settlement negotiations with the woman in 2005, the report says. Schreck helped structure a new business entity to make $7.5 million worth of payments over a 10-year period to the alleged victim, the regulatory report says. It notes the settlement was ‘structured for utmost secrecy.’

“Schreck, whom the gaming commission’s report says had a relationship with Wynn spanning decades, represented the company in the settlement negotiations, according to a deposition of another outside lawyer involved in the case. But the investigators found that Schreck failed to alert the company’s then-general counsel to the issue and didn’t seek a waiver or consent from either Wynn or the company before taking on the matter, saying that was ‘the way it’s been for 40 years.’

“’This is but one example of the company’s failure to identify the existence of a potential conflict between the company’s interests and those of Mr. Wynn, and to assess outside counsel’s obligations with respect to representation accordingly,’ the report says.”

Uh-oh.

A $7.5 million slush fund “structured for utmost secrecy”?

“Failed to alert the company’s then-general counsel to the issue and didn’t seek a waiver or consent from either Wynn or the company before taking on the matter”

“Failure to identify the existence of a potential conflict of interest”?

Makes you wonder if Shrek’s involvement with this whole Badlands brouhaha is completely above-board, doesn’t it?

Is he really giving the Queensridge residents the straight poop?  Or does he have a hidden agenda and is just slinging BS like those slick-talking snake oil salesmen of yore?

He is a lawyer, after all.

FAMOUS LAST WORDS

“You would think Queensridge residents would have chosen a different leader/advisor/lawyer by now, after 5 years of this disastrous outcome for the neighborhood. Obviously, things are not working out very well. $2,000,000 in taxpayer-funded lawsuits, a dead golf course, dead trees, declining property values and a once private neighborhood now exposed to vagrants. And, no end in sight; just more and more litigation. Had their leader not let his ego come into play and reached a compromise with the developer, this neighborhood would have been so much better.” – Tom Letizia

Every Swamp Needs an Ogre; Meet the Badlands’ “Schreck”

(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

(Mr. Muth is president of CitizenOutreach.org and publisher of NevadaNewsandViews.com.  He blogs at MuthsTruths.com.  His views are his own.)

Badlands Fight a Bad Deal for Vegas Taxpayers

(Chuck Muth) – Most people have at least heard of the monster-mash brawl between the owner of the Badlands golf course in northwest Las Vegas and the homeowners who bought million-dollar-plus luxury homes in the development that surrounds it.

But most people also don’t really understand what the brouhaha is all about.  The minute terms such as “inverse condemnation” are uttered, eyes glaze over.  So let me try to clarify this murky swamp in layman’s terms…

The golf course owner, Yohan Lowie, owns the land the golf course is on.  He also owns the property right to redevelop that land into something that would be worth more than it is as a golf course.

The homeowners in the tony Queensridge planned community, however, want the golf course owner to keep the plush-green golf course in their backyards a plush-green golf course.  Who wouldn’t, right?

But that’s the problem.  The golf course property doesn’t belong to the homeowners.  It belongs to Mr. Lowie.  And he has the right to redevelop the property into something else – which the homeowners were told when they bought their homes.  More on that later.

So the homeowners hired a bunch of high-priced lawyers – the most prominent of which, Frank Schreck, also just so happens to be one of the homeowners – who have filed a lawsuit to block Mr. Lowie from turning the green – well, brown now since the course has been closed for two years – golf course into a pot of redevelopment gold.

The homeowners have also been pressuring the Las Vegas City Council to change the zoning rules, after the fact, and force Mr. Lowie to “submit a major modification” request in an effort to block Mr. Lowie from developing the land in ways that were approved back when he originally bought the land – again, before Queensridge was built

The homeowners won the first legal round in District Court.  However, that decision was appealed to the Nevada Supreme Court, with Mr. Lowie arguing that the District Court’s decision was “flawed.”

And many believe the Supremes will agree.

Now, since the city has thus far stalled approval of Mr. Lowie’s new development plan, the city’s taxpayers are at risk of being on the hook for the loss of income Mr. Lowie has suffered due to the multi-year delay – a “taking.”

Which could cost city taxpayers MILLIONS of dollars the city doesn’t have.

In fact, according to a story in Las Vegas Review-Journal on Saturday, this legal battle has already cost city taxpayers – all of them, not just the Queensridge residents – almost $1 million dollars, with no end in sight.

So the Las Vegas City Council voted 5-2 this week to authorize the City Attorney to join the Supreme Court appeal on Mr. Lowie’s side.

Now – for me at least – the big question is whether or not the homeowners were made aware of Mr. Lowie’s right to redevelop the golf course when they bought their homes, because according to Mr. Schreck, “Everybody who bought on the golf course bought into the golf course based on what you see is what you get.”

And what they saw was a plush-green golf course view.

But apparently what they didn’t see were the actual terms of the contract they signed which clearly stated that what they wanted to see wasn’t necessarily what they’d always get.

I have a copy of the “Covenants, Conditions Restrictions and Easements” (CC&R) issued by the city for the Queensridge planned community development dated May 10, 1996 – well BEFORE any homes were built.

This document outlines what the property being approved for development as the Queensridge planned community could be used for, including single-family homes, multi-family homes, condominiums, hotel, etc.

But here’s the thing…

Again, the Badlands Golf Course was already there BEFORE the Queensridge planned community was built.  And the CC&R specifically stated that “The existing 18-hole golf course commonly known as ‘Badlands Golf Course’ is not part of the property.”

That’s because the land the Badlands Golf Course was on wasn’t owned by the developers of Queensridge.  That land was owned by Yohan Lowie.

And since it was Mr. Lowie’s land, it was up to Mr. Lowie, not the Queensridge planned community, to decide whether to keep that land as a golf course…or do something else with it.

Well, a few years ago Mr. Lowie decided to exercise his property rights and do something else with the land.  Which resulted in Mr. Schreck and other homeowners – who didn’t want to lose their backyard view of a plush, green golf course – had a conniption.

But here’s the thing…

When Mr. Schreck and the other homeowners bought their homes in the Queensridge planned community, the “Purchase Agreement” they signed specifically stated that the Seller “has made no representations or warranties” concerning possible “future development” of “the surrounding area of nearby property.”

Surrounding area like…the Badlands Golf Course.

In fact, click here to see a map included in the CC&R of the area which specifically shows that the Badlands Golf Course was “NOT A PART” of the Queensridge planned community and was “SUBJECT TO DEVELOPMENT RIGHTS.”

Including the development rights of…Yohan Lowie.

But the Purchase Agreement went even further.

Under “Additional Disclosures” – which buyers had to initial, acknowledging it had been “read and approved by the purchaser” – the Queensridge planned community specifically advised Mr. Schreck and the others that what you see might NOT always be what you get.

“The Lot (being purchased) may have a view or location advantage at the present time,” Section 6 of of the Purchase Agreement reads.

A view advantage like a plush, green golf course off the back yard.

Now here’s the kicker…

“Morevover, depending on the location of the Lot, adjacent or nearby residential dwellings or other structures, whether within the Planned Community or outside the Planned Community, could potentially be constructed or modified in a manner that could block or impair all or part of the view from the Lot and/or diminish the location advantages of the Lot, if any.”

The operative words here are “outside the Planned Community.  Like…the Badlands Golf Course.

Section 6 concludes…

“Purchaser acknowledges that Seller has not made any representations, warranties, covenants, or agreements to or with Purchaser concerning the preservation or permanence of any view or location advantage for the Lot.”

Like the view and location advantage of a golf course view.

So from where I sit with what I’ve learned so far – acknowledging that I’m no lawyer and don’t even play one on TV – it appears the home owners in the “Queensridge Quagmire” don’t have a leg to stand on.  Will be interesting to see if the Supreme Court agrees.

Either way, city taxpayers are gonna get fleeced.  The only question is how Badlands badly.

(Mr. Muth is president of CitizenOutreach.org and publisher of NevadaNewsandViews.com.  He blogs at MuthsTruths.com.  His views are his own.)