Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Unspinning (Chris Milam's Henderson) #StadiumGate

Well, that didn't take too long. The City of Henderson is now in negotiations to settle its law suit against Chris Milam over the disputed stadium project south of The M Resort.

City government spokesman Bud Cranor confirmed that settlement talks are being held.

“At this point, we do not have an agreement,” he said.

An attorney for Milam did not immediately return a call Monday seeking comment.

Milam laid out plans for an indoor arena and three stadiums in Henderson for his proposed Las Vegas National Sports Complex, though no teams have committed to the facilities. The complex was expected to cost more than $1 billion.

In late January, City Hall sued Milam and several others working with him on the project. They were accused of using a city-approved development pact to buy the 480-acre project site at a cheap price, about $10.5 million, and then sell it “piecemeal” to residential and commercial developers.

Last Wednesday at the Henderson Democratic Club's candidates' night, Mayor Andy Hafen talked about the city's desire to build a major league sports stadium on that land south of The M Resort. He ardently believes it's the right place. It's close to The 15, yet it's currently BLM managed open desert. There are no worries about eminent domain, traffic redirection, or any of the other, more urban concerns of the other stadium proposals (Caesars, UNLV, Downtown Las Vegas, etc.).

Perhaps this just hit at the wrong time. It certainly seemed to involve the wrong developer. Warning signs of Chris Milam appeared as early as 2011. That's why both the City of Las Vegas and Clark County respectively rejected Milam's stadium plans in 2011. It was only after those two municipal governments turned down Milam that he then struck a deal with Henderson to build that stadium on the open desert south of The M.

So it's not as if the City of Henderson is completely blameless in this debacle. Even Mayor Hafen himself has admitted the city went too fast in the past in pursuing development. I can understand he and others at Henderson City Hall think that open land is just ripe for stadium construction. They just need to make sure there's a viable plan and a trustworthy developer who can actually bring that plan to fruition. At least now, the city will be getting something for the many headaches created by this Milam scandal. And at least this debacle was stopped before it could truly cause mayhem.

Still, one can't let Milam off the hook for this. Chris Milam defrauded the City of Henderson by promising to build a stadium, then pulling out of the contract at the last minute to flip the land for residential development. Not only was Milam breaking his promise and using shaky legal ground to breach a contract, but he also could have caused real damage to the local real estate market by facilitating a glut of new houses just as the market has begun to absorb the over-supply of new homes from last decade.

While many media pundits have been pointing fingers at Henderson City Hall, we can't ignore the clear malfeasance on the part of Chris Milam. And we certainly shouldn't buy into his lawyers' spinning of him into some sort of "hero". It's easy for them to provide colorful quotes to the media. However, they seem to have a much harder time explaining what their client did and why he did it.

This isn't a simple, black & white kind of story. There are truly fifty shades of crazy here. Henderson has had to learn to do due diligence to ensure a deal is actually what its developer claims it to be. And Chris Milam will have to learn to take his phony baloney grandiose "ideas" elsewhere. No one may ultimately come out a winner here, but hopefully Henderson residents won't have to lose on this.

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