Las Vegas Sun

November 18, 2018

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Casino sues state over rights to land

Vacation Village is in a legal dispute with the Nevada Department of Transportation over ownership rights to a 15-acre parcel between Sunset Road and the bankrupt Las Vegas hotel-casino.

Vacation Village sued NDOT in Clark County District Court on Tuesday, alleging it is entitled to part of that parcel because Nevada law says property that has been abandoned by the state should revert back to the owner for public use.

The suit said the property was deeded by Vacation Village's previous owners to the state for use as a public highway. Vacation Village claims the state later abandoned the land and -- instead of returning it to Vacation Village -- transferred it to the Clark County Department of Aviation on July 27.

"We want the court to decide who has rights to that property. That's important to us because Vacation Village can't build upwards due to height restrictions imposed by Clark County. And when you can't build upwards, you've got to build outwards," said Vacation Village attorney Laura Fitzsimmons.

"The Transportation Department abandoned that off-ramp around 1994 and traded it to (McCarran) airport this year and the airport is now negotiating to trade the property to Howard Hughes (Properties Ltd.)," she said.

"As part of the deal, the airport would pay Howard Hughes more than $1 million and trade the off ramp property in exchange for some land owned by Hughes near the North Las Vegas Airport," she said. "And it appears that this property is being transferred for less than what it's valued at according to appraisals obtained by the Transportation Department. One of these appraisals say the property is worth more than $9 million."

But Tom Warden, Howard Hughes Corp.'s vice president of marketing and community relations, disputed Vacation Village's evaluation of the value of the property.

"It's true that the first appraisal was for $9 million, but other issues were taken into account in subsequent appraisals," he said. "The fact that the property is an odd-shaped right of way may not have been taken into account in the first appraisal. The property, which is an old 1-15 on-ramp that runs diagonally from Las Vegas Boulevard to 1-15, should be less valuable because it's awkward for building purposes."

Warden said Hughes hasn't decided what it will do with the land if the purchase goes through. Hughes already owns an adjacent parcel.

NDOT declined comment on the allegations.