City council split on way forward for golf course conversions

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L.E. Baskow

The shuttered Badlands Golf Course with dead greens and extensive overgrowth about the homes in Summerlin on Saturday, August 12, 2017.

Wed, Sep 6, 2017 (6:30 p.m.)

Las Vegas City Council on Wednesday acknowledged a need to revamp its approach to golf course redevelopment, but it wasn’t willing to put a halt to all development of them in the meantime.

Councilman Steve Seroka, whose Ward 2 has dealt for the past two years with issues related to the closure and planned redevelopment of the Badlands Golf Course, proposed a six-month moratorium on the acceptance and processing of any land-development applications concerning golf courses or common open spaces.

The intent was to give city staff time to craft comprehensive policies that address “the scope, scale and potential impacts” associated with the redevelopment of these types of spaces within master-planned communities or so-called “special area plans,” which like master-planned communities are dictated by guidelines beyond general city zoning codes.

“Amendments (to the existing code) are needed to address unique circumstances,” said Acting Planning Director Robert Summerfield, noting that there are 23 such areas within the city and that 10 of those include golf courses or common open spaces with the potential to be developed in the future. “We can create transparency and clarity, for the development community and for residents.”

Seroka has said previously that, while he is concerned with the specifics of the Badlands redevelopment, he is equally concerned with the bigger picture, which he believes is a lack of smart development policies at the city level. In a presentation of the proposal, he identified broad areas that could use policy guidance, including public engagement, infrastructure and code enforcement requirements.

“I know it may be difficult for some to believe, but my concern is for everyone,” he said. “My concern is for developers and homeowners. What I think we have here is a failure in policy.”

The proposal was not specific to Badlands and would have applied to Silverstone, another shuttered golf course located in the far northwestern part of the city, and potentially to other golf courses that might close and be considered for redevelopment within the next six months. Golf course conversions have proven to be both a reoccurring national issue and a valley-wide issue.

Most of Seroka’s fellow council members agreed with his overall sentiment but fell short of wanting to stop accepting redevelopment applications until the city could revamp its policies.

“This is the first time we have actually started a discussion about what principles we should engage in when we talk about developing these golf courses,” said Councilman Stavros Anthony. “(Seroka’s proposal) talks about public engagement requirements, talks about best practices, talks about environmental assessments … I think this is all great stuff. The part that bothers me is the moratorium.”

Councilman Ricki Barlow added, “I think (the moratorium) sends the wrong message to the entire development community.”

Because the moratorium aspect of Seroka’s proposal was not supported by the majority, the council instead voted 5-2 to direct staff to pursue researching national best practices and draft ordinance changes regarding golf course conversions.

Mayor Carolyn Goodman and Councilwoman Michele Fiore cast the dissenting votes. The former cited a desire only to vote on what was actually on the agenda, which was the moratorium. The latter expressed “high offense” to the proposal in its entirety because she believed it would adversely affect her ward more than any other.

Councilman Bob Coffin was the only member of council to support the moratorium. “This town, this county, has tax problems because so much development was allowed everywhere and anywhere,” he said. “It became unpatriotic to say, ‘Let’s slow it down.’”

He added, “What I see is a more common sense approach to development.”

Staff is now expected to return to council with proposed ordinance changes regarding golf courses and other open spaces within the next six months. If such an ordinance is to be adopted in the future, it could be retroactive and apply to applications submitted before its adoption.

Developers of the former Badlands are currently back in the pre-application stage after city council denied one set of plans at its Aug. 2 meeting.

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