Las Vegas Sun

April 19, 2019

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Selby says staff enthusiasm may have misled developer

Las Vegas City Manager Doug Selby said city development staff members' enthusiasm for a proposal to build three high rises near downtown was misinterpreted by the developer who apparently thought their condominiums would win easy approval from the City Council.

City Councilman Lawrence Weekly blasted city staff during the Dec. 15 council meeting, accusing staff of misleading representatives from the Atlanta-based Ambling Development Co. He said staff led them to believe council approval for the proposed three 28-story buildings near the intersection of Alta Drive and Martin Luther King Boulevard was "a done deal."

Selby said he doesn't believe anyone from the city intentionally misled the development company, but said he has taken steps to avoid another such incident.

Selby said he and Scott Adams, director of the Office of Business Development, discussed the need to temper employees' enthusiasm in the future so that approval of a project "is not represented to be easier than it might be."

They also agreed to brief council members on major projects earlier. Weekly complained that he found out about the project later than he would have liked.

Selby said the employees involved were with the Office of Business Development. He would not identify anyone involved or say whether or not any disciplinary action was taken.

"It appears that some of our staff got overly eager with the project," Selby said. "A year ago we were begging for downtown development. Now we are blessed with an abundance.

"Perhaps our enthusiasm leads others to believe everyone is enthusiastic about it. ... Our enthusiasm may sometimes be misinterpreted. I'd like to think that was the case here."

The council voted 5-0 to reject the proposal after hearing from neighbors who said they feared the impact on traffic, and schools, as well as having the large buildings tower over nearby homes and backyards. Those who spoke in opposition to the project included former Clark County School Board member Lois Tarkanian and District Judge Donald Mosley.

Weekly said then that the project was beautiful but just didn't fit into that neighborhood.

Mayor Oscar Goodman and Councilman Michael Mack abstained from the vote. Goodman abstained because a business partner, attorney Jay Brown, may represent the developer or property owner involved. Mack abstained because he is a consultant for a company that worked for the developer, according to city records.

Ambling President Rhett Holmes and Senior Vice President Eddy Benoit were unavailable for comment this morning.

Following the council vote last week, Holmes and Benoit said they met with Weekly and city staff in recent months and were encouraged every step of the way. The company even went ahead and spent more than $2 million on the project, which would have resulted in more than 850 condominiums, and opened a Las Vegas office.

Weekly, who could not be reached for comment this morning, said that when he met with Ambling representatives a few months ago he told them they were proposing a beautiful project but they needed to speak with the neighbors.