Las Vegas Ward 2 City Councilwoman Victoria Seaman is trying to repeal an ordinance that compels developers to author impact studies and undergo a “public engagement program” prior to repurposing golf courses and open spaces.
The ordinance Seaman seeks to eliminate, “Repurposing of Certain Golf Courses or Open Spaces,” was spearheaded by her predecessor, former Ward 2 Councilman Steve Seroka, and passed by the council 4-2 last November. Critics described it as overly burdensome for developers seeking to build on green spaces, while supporters said it protects neighborhoods and ensures residents are included in development discussions.
Ward 6 Councilwoman Michele Fiore, who voted against the ordinance last November along with Mayor Carolyn Goodman, sponsored a similar bill in June to repeal it. Fiore opted to strike her bill the following month because she wanted to give newly elected council members an opportunity to review the open space ordinance, city spokesperson Jace Radke said.
The ordinance is embroiled in a years-long fight over the future of the shuttered Badlands golf course in Ward 2’s affluent Queensridge neighborhood. Developer EHB Companies is seeking to build hundreds of homes on the course, thereby eliminating open space that Queensridge residents say they are entitled to through their master plan.
Many Queensridge residents have supported Seroka’s ordinance because they see it as a way to keep the proposal in check. However, EHB Companies has challenged the ordinance in court, saying it unfairly singles out its proposal.
A longtime critic of Seroka’s handling of the Badlands issue, Seaman said she “strongly” supports aspects of his open space ordinance that call for public meetings and the notification of residents affected by those types of projects. That’s why she wants to keep the ordinance’s requirement that developers hold advertised neighborhood meetings when seeking to make new use of open space, she said.
“I wanted to create a new ordinance that continued to protect citizens by requiring all the same 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,” Seaman wrote in an email.
Seaman's proposed ordinance won the backing of the Las Vegas Planning Commission in a vote Tuesday and will be forwarded to the City Council for a vote, likely in January.
The current ordinance requires developers to hold neighborhood meetings with affected parties in which they explain why they want to repurpose an open space or a golf course and how they will mitigate potential impacts to “schools, traffic, parks, emergency services and utility infrastructure.” In addition, developers must present to the city a summary of these activities, a statement outlining alternative uses of the land and a closure maintenance plan explaining how they will secure the land prior to redevelopment.
All of these activities must occur before developers submit any official redevelopment plans for the open space in question, the ordinance stipulates.
Under Seaman’s proposed bill, developers would still need to hold public neighborhood meetings when attempting to amend land use in a neighborhood. They could also hold “voluntary” meetings for different development projects, or city officials could require such meetings if they deemed it necessary.
But the bill does not include the most significant elements of Seroka’s open space ordinance, such as the requirement for impact studies, despite Seaman's assertions, said Queensridge resident Gordon Culp.
“The only topic I see ... that is common to the open space ordinance is discussion of neighborhood meetings, which is a small part of the open space ordinance,” Culp wrote in an email.
Seroka’s ordinance includes a framework for how the city should review proposals to repurpose open space, emphasizing that the new use of the area should be compatible with the surrounding neighborhood. Seaman’s bill does not reference whether proposals would need to fit into a community.
Seaman’s proposal also calls for a change to the city’s definition of “open space.” Existing language defines it as, “Any parcel or area of land or water that as part of, and in consideration of development approval, has been formally set aside, dedicated, designated, or reserved for public use or enjoyment” or private use. Proposed new language would define open space as a parcel that “has been or is to be formally set aside, dedicated, designated, or reserved for public use or enjoyment” or private use.
The new definition removes any chance of conditioning development approval upon the inclusion of open space, said fellow Queensridge resident Frank Schreck.
“It takes away rights that homeowners have on open space that was granted by a developer as a condition for him getting the city’s approval,” Schreck said.
All that Seaman’s bill would accomplish, according to Schreck, is the requirement for a public meeting to share “the details of a proposed amendment regarding land use,” bill language states. It does not stipulate any additional requirements for the content of the meeting, nor does it state that the meeting must be done prior to submitting documents to the city, as Seroka’s ordinance does.
“They’ll have a public meeting with homeowners that’ll mean absolutely nothing, like the dozen we’ve had before,” said Schreck, referring to meetings between Queensridge residents and EHB Companies.
Schreck described the bill as a handout to EHB Companies disguised as a compromise to Queensridge residents in an attempt to convince new council members that “they are not abandoning residents.”
“These (requirements) are all geared to what the developer would accept,” he said. “There’s no one that benefits from this except the developer.”
In response to a question about how her bill could impact the Badlands proposal, Seaman said she could not “speculate or comment” on the issue, as it relates to ongoing litigation involving the city.
EHB Companies’ attorney, Elizabeth Ham, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.