The Falls and Reflection Bay golf courses in the development, which was forced into bankruptcy in 2008, have been abandoned for four years. But the Henderson City Council has approved zone changes in support of a “Green Grass Project” that it, and remaining stakeholders, hope will help bring the properties back to life. John Paulson, a New York hedge fund manager, is in contract to purchase the courses as part of the plan, which one planning commissioner called “the rocket fuel to take this community forward.”
On September 17, the City Council of Henderson, Nev. approved zone changes as part of a proposal called the Green Grass Project designed to revive the Reflection Bay and The Falls golf courses, which were part of the Lake Las Vegas development that was forced into bankruptcy in 2008, leading to abandonment of the two courses a year later, according to a report in the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
The goal of the project, according to a staff report from the city’s Community Development Department, “is to restore the Reflection Bay and The Falls golf courses to their original, lush appearance,” the Review-Journal reported.
When the two courses were abandoned, 375 acres of neglected land was created, and visitors to Lake Las Vegas have since seen mostly dead grass when they enter the community, the Review-Journal noted.
But supporters of the Green Grass Project hope the change will help return the resort community to its original glory. “It is something that literally can revitalize Lake Las Vegas,” Henderson City Councilman John Marz said.
The project involves converting some of the abandoned golf course land to residential uses to fund the restoration. But according to the staff report, the Review-Journal reported, “dozens, if not hundreds, of acres within Lake Las Vegas will remain undisturbed, natural desert open space.”
Last year, the Review-Journal reported, New York hedge fund manager John Paulson purchased about 875 acres on the north shore of Lake Las Vegas through his firm, Paulson & Co. His company, Lake Las Vegas Recovery Acquisition LLC, filed the applications for the zone changes that were approved by the Henderson City Council, and is in contract with Texas-based Carmel Land & Cattle Co. to purchase the abandoned golf courses.
Cody Winterton, Executive Vice President of Raintree Investment Corp., an exclusive agent for Paulson & Co. explained the details of the Green Grass Project at the September 10 council meeting, the Review-Journal reported. Winterton said Paulson and Raintree began working with the Lake Las Vegas community about a year ago to come up with solutions for the deserted golf courses.
The result was the Green Grass Project, through which, Winterton told the council, 150 acres of grass will be replaced or nursed back to health, and 100 acres of neglected trees and bushes will be cleaned up and cared for.
In addition, more than 50 acres at The Falls will be conveyed to the Lake Las Vegas Master Association, at no cost, for the permanent use of homeowners, the Review-Journal reported.
Raintree plans to re-open the Reflection Bay golf course to the public as a championship-level course, but company representatives have said the community cannot support a third golf course. The Falls lost money even during its best year, they said.
Water from the 320-acre lake will be used for irrigation; Winterton noted the turnover of water within the lake is needed for its overall health, which has suffered since the golf courses closed, the Review-Journal reported.
Raintree’s plans also call for the construction of 275 homes on The Falls golf course and 80 homes on the Reflection Bay driving range, which will be reduced from 15 acres to 6 acres, the Review-Journal reported.
The Green Grass Project will restore the “visual impact” of the Lake Las Vegas entryway off of Lake Mead Parkway, Winterton told the council. He said the improvement is critical for the homeowners and hotels in the resort community. “It’s literally an oasis in the desert,” he said.
Greg Gooding, General Manager of The Westin Lake Las Vegas Resort & Spa, was among those who spoke in favor of the project at the council meeting, the Review-Journal reported. In his comments, Gooding acknowledged that the resort community has gone through a “devastating time.”
“We can’t succeed without Reflection Bay, a healthy lake and a green entrance,” he told the council.
The council voted 4-0 in favor of the zone changes needed for the Green Grass Project, prompting applause from Lake Las Vegas homeowners who attended the meeting. Mayor Andy Hafen was absent, the Review-Journal reported.
Greg Toth, a senior planner with the city of Henderson, said he heard little opposition to the proposal at neighborhood meetings he attended. City staff recommended approval of the project.
“This is the first time since the golf courses shut down that we’ve seen any plan to address the fact that it’s all dying,” Toth said.
Vicki Hafen Scott, who has lived in the private, gated community on the lake’s south shore since 1998, spoke at the council’s September 3rd meeting and said she was disappointed that a vote on the matter was being delayed that night, the Review-Journal reported. “We’ve had a problem out there for many years,” she told the council.
Scott’s neighborhood has its own private golf course, at SouthShore Golf Club, that continues to function, but she thinks the Green Grass Project will have an economic benefit for everyone who lives or does business at Lake Las Vegas, the Review-Journal reported.
“I think that’s very important to the look of our community,” Scott said. “I mean, that’s what our community was built around, the green grass of those golf courses.”
Henderson’s Planning Commission unanimously approved the zone changes at its August 15 meeting, the Review-Journal reported, even though Commissioner Jerry Mansfield, who has lived in the community since 2002, said the city does not give up open space easily. “For what we did give up in open land, we feel that this is more than compensated for in the benefits the community has received in return,” Mansfield said.
Mansfield called the project a “huge win for Lake Las Vegas,” the Review-Journal reported.
“This is the rocket fuel to take this community forward, and I don’t know that everyone’s realized it yet,” the planning commissioner said.
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