Las Vegas Sun

December 22, 2014

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Park Highlands developer files for court’s protection

Developer owes more than $100 million, seeks reorganization

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STEVE MARCUS / LAS VEGAS SUN FILE

The vacant desert at left was to be developed as Park Highlands, a 2,675 acre community in North Las Vegas. Work began in 2007 with the expectation that people would begin moving in in 2008. This February, the projection for completion of the first homes was moved to 2010. Now, who knows?

Park Highlands, the massive master- planned development that is slated to be the next wave of growth in North Las Vegas, has gone from promising, to stalled, and as of last week, to bankruptcy court.

In February the developer told the Sun that homes could be built on the site north of the Las Vegas Beltway by the end of 2010.

About 70 percent of the infrastructure for the first phase of development was complete. Design work has begun for the second part, the 2,000 acres east of Aliante Parkway and north of the Las Vegas Beltway.

The Olympia Group, developer of Southern Highlands, bid $639 million for the 2,675 acres — or $238,878 per acre — at a Bureau of Land Management auction in 2005.

Work on the project began in January 2007 with the expectation that residents would start moving in by the end of 2008.

However, as the economy tanked, the Clark County School District and North Las Vegas delayed public projects on the land.

Last week the developer, November 2005 Land Investors LLC, filed for bankruptcy protection. It owes from 50 to 99 creditors between $100 million and $500 million, according to the bankruptcy court filing. Included is more than $220,000 owed to the city for development services. November 2005 Land Investors LLC, of which Olympia Group is a partner, claims assets of from $100 million to $500 million.

The developer may be able to restructure its debt and restart the project should the economy turn around.

Boyd Gaming and Station Casinos own land in the eastern part of Park Highlands, but North Las Vegas will not approve casinos until it completes a gaming market study.

•••

The North Las Vegas City Council likely will finalize the terms of an employee buyout on Wednesday.

The plan aims to save the city $7.75 million in the next fiscal year.

The city will offer employees one week’s salary for each year employed, plus health benefits for three months, to anybody who has worked for the city for at least five years.

The city estimates about 10 percent of 978 eligible employees will accept the offer.

North Las Vegas recently shaved about $15 million off next year’s budget. But it still must cut another $23 million.

Like every other local municipality, North Las Vegas is facing tough times in the recession. The budget shortfall stems from falling sales and property tax revenue.

Henderson also offered buyouts to some experienced workers.

About 60 people have taken buyout offers, saving the city $3.5 million this year and $16 million over the next five years.

Another round of buyouts is being offered to employees whose age plus years of service to the city are greater than 60. The offer is two weeks’ pay for every year of service and three months of health care coverage, with no maximum payout.

Henderson has been forced to cut about $50 million from next year’s budget.

Officials in both cities say they are doing everything they can to avoid layoffs, although they may become necessary.

•••

Boulder City isn’t doing much better financially during the recession.

The city has cut more than $1.1 million from next year’s budget. Now it’s aiming to chop another $350,000 as sales and property tax revenue continues to fall.

The City Council will hold a special meeting on Tuesday to address the cuts.

Two employee unions have agreed to concessions, including deferring cost-of-living raises, that will save the city $360,000 next year.

Many in the city hope the continued lease of land for renewable energy projects will bring in new revenue.

The city is negotiating to lease about 25 acres in the Eldorado Valley for construction of a privately run geothermal energy plant.

Three other energy plants, two solar and one gas-fired, lease land on the outskirts of Boulder City, netting the city about $2 million annually.

The first item in this story has been corrected to read that November 2005 Land Investors LLC, was the developer that filed for bankruptcy protection.

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