Las Vegas Taxpayers May Have To Pay Millions Over City’s Court Case Losses

By: Julia Mehalko | Published: May 30, 2024

Las Vegas taxpayers may soon have to pay millions over the city’s many court case losses regarding their Badlands legal fights.

This money may have to come out of taxpayers’ pockets as a result of higher taxes. However, the city could also choose to sell real estate or cut city staff and services in an effort to pay these court fees and settlements.

Developers vs Las Vegas

A legal fight between a developer and the City of Las Vegas first began when developer Yohan Lowie sued the city for its actions against Lowie’s redevelopment plans for the Badlands golf course.

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Lowie had planned on redesigning the golf course and creating many condominiums and homes on the land. However, the city quickly fought his efforts.

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Leaders Prevented Lowie From Development

Many lawsuits have since been filed by Lowie against the city, for a variety of different reasons. Even though this land had accurate residential zoning, it is alleged that the city’s elected leaders fought to prevent Lowie from truly developing homes on the now vacant and abandoned golf course.

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To ensure this prevention stuck, leaders denied Lowie permits repeatedly. This was even done against advice these leaders received from a planning commission and their own staff.

Taking Lowie’s Land

So far, various court cases have been ruled in Lowie’s favor. Last month, the Nevada Supreme Court ruled that the City of Las Vegas illegally took over Lowie’s land.

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The Nevada Supreme Court building seen in the daytime.

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This ruling was unanimous. The Supreme Court also upheld a previous District Court ruling that resulted in a $48 million judgment. This judgment could increase to $63 million once attorney fees and interest are added up.

Money Movements

Already, the city has tried to move money around to accurately pay for this Supreme Court ruling. City officials have reportedly moved $60 million out of the city’s general fund.

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Las Vegas’ general fund is often used towards services and salaries. The city currently has more than $200 million in the general fund’s reserves.

More Than $230 Million in Rulings

However, Las Vegas may have to pay much more than $60 million when all of these latest court cases are finally resolved — and all of this could be paid by the city’s taxpayers.

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So far, courts have already enforced more than $230 million in multiple rulings where they sided with Lowie against the city.

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Paying Attorney Fees

Plus, there are the millions of dollars that Las Vegas will have to pay to multiple outside law firms that they hired to represent them in these court cases.

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It appears that the city will pay at least $6 million in these attorney fees.

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Ongoing Interest Payments

Experts have also pointed to the ongoing interest payments that the city will have to pay, as Las Vegas still hasn’t paid Lowie, even though the Supreme Court ruled in his favor.

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Since the Nevada Supreme Court’s ruling, Las Vegas owes hundreds of thousands of dollars in interest payments to Lowie — something they haven’t paid yet, which has confounded even city supporters.

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Who Will Pay For These Rulings?

Though the city hasn’t clarified any details about what these rulings could mean, many city officials have indicated that taxpayers will more than likely have to pay these millions of dollars.

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“City taxpayers are on the hook for it,” George Stevens, the former chief financial officer for Clark County, as well as the finance director for Las Vegas, explained.

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Other Ways To Pay

For the most part, it appears that taxpayer money may have to pay for these legal settlements and fees. Raising taxes may be one option the city has — which Las Vegas residents won’t be thrilled about.

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However, the city could also cut services or staff to make up for this money. Spending reserves and selling real estate could also be potential options.

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The Badlands Legal Fight Enters the Mayoral Race

These legal issues the city has found itself in have also entered this year’s Las Vegas mayoral race, with many candidates voicing their opinions on the fight. “This is taxpayer dollars we’re gambling with,” Councilwoman Victoria Seaman criticized.

A view of the Las Vegas welcome sign seen in the daytime.

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Mayoral candidate Eric Medlin called out the drama and the wealthy Queensridge residents who first pushed to stop Yohan’s development, saying that the city’s legal fight looks like “a bunch of rich people buying political influence to prevent something from being built in their backyard.”

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Frustration Over Rulings

Many Las Vegas locals and officials have expressed their frustration with the city’s decision to steer clear of settling with Yohan. Now, taxpayers may have to pay millions to clear up these legal fees.

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“How many parks could be improved or roads improved with that money?” Stevens wondered.

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