Thursday, April 7, 2005 | 10:56 a.m.
A Las Vegas developer said the Clark County Commission left him with no other option than to sue a competing company whose property would literally cast a shadow on his planned Strip megaresort.
On a 5-1 vote Wednesday, the commission, acting as the zoning board, approved a design review for two high-rise residential towers by The Related Cos. that representatives of a neighboring property say would darken the skies over their planned resort at the corner of Las Vegas Boulevard South and Convention Center Drive.
The potential litigation is the latest in a highly contentious battle that has erupted over two separate projects planned near that corner.
The commission vote reversed a decision made in February, when commissioners denied the design of one of the two towers planned by The Related Cos.
Lorenzo Doumani, chief executive officer of Majestic Resorts, which plans to develop the stretch of land previously home to the La Conchita, said shadows from the two planned 522-foot towers planned next-door would darken his company's planned resort and hamper views from his company's property.
The prolonged fight has already caused his company, which is working with Hilton Hotels Corp. to develop what executives say will be a five-star property, to scrap plans for a second condominium tower after investors grew uneasy about the project, Doumani said.
"The bottom line is that it's a horrible precedent," he told the commission. "I think it'll be a blight on the city."
Architects for Majestic have long urged New York-based developer The Related Cos. to change the towers' orientation, either by moving a tower closer to the Convention Center Drive or by moving another north.
Either suggestion would reduce the "Chinese Wall" effect that the almost side-by-side towers could cause, Majestic architect Paul Steelman said.
Steelman used elaborate computer animation to illustrate how the current design could hinder views from the upscale hotel.
"It is a pure and deliberate block of the view," he said.
Chris Kaempfer, the Las Vegas attorney representing The Related Cos., said existing easements prevent the company from altering its plan significantly. A motion introduced by Commissioner Myrna Williams to name an independent mediator to negotiate a compromise between the two companies was defeated.
Williams voted against the motion to approve the design, which Commissioner Bruce Woodbury said would not bar slight alterations to the plan.
"Maybe with a mediator, somebody totally uninvolved, they could compromise," Williams said. "The (developers') positions are pretty well set in stone."
The commission in February approved one of Related's two planned tower on the site after county counsel Rob Warhola said that because the second structure was significantly redrawn from previously approved land-use plans they would have to once again go through a lengthy county approval process.
The commission voted 6-0 at that meeting to deny the second tower.
Related's president, Martin Burger, disputed claims his company had been unwilling to alter its position in the ongoing fight.
The company is also contracted to develop the city-controlled 61 acres near downtown. Related's other high-profile projects include New York City's Time-Warner Center.
"We've been very successful in many different markets and we haven't been that way by bullying our neighbors," Burger said.
Speaking briefly after the commission meeting, Doumani said the commission's decision "opened up a Pandora's Box" that would lead to indefinite litigation between the two companies.
The commission bowed to political pressure exerted by the national developer, he said.
"What changed?" between the two meetings, Doumani asked. "It sent a message that rules be damned. Related is a good company but I guess Vegas is all about money."