Why some folks just don't trust Steve Wynn
Wynn want the lush property so he can capture its water rights?
question and others may not be answered in the near future
on Wynn's reputation of being less than forthright with
long-time Las Vegas neighbors and loyal supporters.
INSIDE VEGAS by Steve Miller
July 12, 2004
"Like a Good Neighbor…Steve Wynn is There…"
LAS VEGAS - After destroying the historic Desert Inn Country Club Estates
and displacing hundreds of pioneer Las Vegans to make way for another hotel,
Steve Wynn is now eyeing another well established golf course community,
the Las Vegas Country Club.
Speculation runs rampant as to why? The spectacular golf course is located
away from the Las Vegas Strip causing concern that its purchase is solely
to capture underground water rights. Las Vegas is draught stricken in case
you haven't heard, and Wynn just loves water wasting artificial lakes and
fountains gracing his casinos.
Our city wildly celebrates monuments from across the sea while it ignores
its desert locale and rich human history. The D.I. Estates, and Las Vegas
Country Club are part of our desert city's rapidly imploding history --
not like newer structures such as the Mirage, Paris, and Bellagio hotels
that celebrate places far away from the high desert. Its' now almost impossible
to tell that Las Vegas is located in a desert except during July, August
and September when the heat overpowers the wonders of even the most mega
of faraway themed mega-resorts.
Homeowners on the Las Vegas Country Club want to know what's happening.
Some say that well dressed real estate types are approaching them to ask
if they're interested in selling their million dollar homes. Some owners
fear the Las Vegas Country Club is about to go the way of the Desert Inn
Estates, now the site of the Wynn Las Vegas resort. The question is whether
the Las Vegas Country Club is a good site for another mega resort? Or is
it strictly about water?
Those questions and others may not be answered in the near future based
on Wynn's reputation for being less than forthright with his Las Vegas
It started in 1993 when 70 senior citizens were forced out of their
broken down trailers at the World Wide Mobile Home Park to make way for
a Mirage Hotel employee parking lot. Many of the park residents were too
old or sick to move, and most did not have the funds to find another home.
The saddest part was that a community had formed. The elderly World Wide
residents were a coalescent support group for each other.
Wynn began his effort by reportedly offering World Wide residents about
$4,000 each to move out early. If they did not go immediately, he reportedly
began reducing the offer each month until they did. Many left, but many
more stayed because they could not afford to go, were too sick, or did
not want to leave their extended family. As the months wore on, Wynn reportedly
began cutting off their life support systems one by one.
According to residents, the first service to be cut off was the pay
phones; then the gardener and security; and finally the water and power.
A few more senior citizens moved, but most held their ground in what had
been their humble homes for the past thirty years. Park residents appointed
one of their younger neighbors as a spokeswoman. She went to the local
press with the revolting story, but few media outlets responded. Those
that did downplayed the story, possibly not wanting to offend Wynn.
Out of desperation, the spokeswoman came to me. I helped her organize
a demonstration on the once-public sidewalk in front of the Mirage. Wynn’s
only response to the demonstration was to have his attorneys prepare a
bill draft to allow the privatization of Strip sidewalks -- effectively
prohibiting such demonstrations in the future. The Nevada Legislature obediently
passed the bill during their next session. That unconstitutional
law is in force today.
Defeated, the residents went back to their humble trailers. One 98 year
old resident, a World War I veteran who spent the day in the heat protesting
in front of the Mirage, passed away several days later.
The land was soon cleared and paved over.
Then, in 2000, long-time Desert Inn Estates residents refused to move
from their beautiful homes to make way for Wynn's latest resort. The homeowners
claimed that Steve Wynn cut off access to their neighborhood by dedicating
part of Country Club Lane to Clark County for the widening of Sands Avenue.
The homeowners said the private road wasn't Wynn's to give to the County,
and his giving it away blocked the only access to their homes - a maneuver
they believed was by design to make their lives miserable and cause them
to sell at Wynn's price.
Wynn likes to pay residential prices for land that is about to be upgraded
to H-1 Tourist Commercial, the most valuable land use in the Vegas Valley.
The Desert Inn Estates homeowners believed there was collusion
between Wynn and Clark County officials to make this possible. Wynn is
historically one of the biggest political campaign contributors in Nevada.
(He even contributed $7,500 to the author's 1991 campaign
for Mayor of Las Vegas.)
Wynn claimed that the Desert Inn purchase made it possible for him to
do away with all the covenants, codes and restrictions (CC&R's) of
the D.I. Homeowner's Association. All this occurred under the watchful
eye of Clark County officials who obediently turned their backs on resident's
complaints, along with a new Homeowner's Association board of directors
chosen by Wynn.
The first homes to be purchased were allowed to deteriorate. Their pools
turned green and became a breeding ground for misquotes. County Health
Departments officials did not respond to complaints. Then a cement batch
plant was erected near the homes owned by those who did not wish to sell.
Noise and dust permeated the air. Homeowners hired an attorney and went
Wynn countered by accusing the residents of trying to shake him down
for more money for their properties. He paid cooperating homeowners ten
percent above appraisal. He also told a TV news audience that the main
issue is "leverage." In the meantime, comparable residential properties
were appreciating yearly, but the threat of a Wynn buyout did little to
help property values in his targeted area.
After tiring of their protests, Wynn filed a SLAPP
suit against remaining Desert Inn Estates homeowners for speaking out
against his buyout offer. "Anything that clouds our ability to develop
our project has the ability to jeopardize financing," Wynn's attorney
Marc Rubinstein said. "That's what the (lawsuit) is all about."
I believe that Steve Wynn has already demonstrated that he has no respect
for our town's long-time citizens as shown by these two examples. Now,
it looks like his sights are set on the long-time residents of the beautiful
Las Vegas Country Club.
Las Vegas Review-Journal Photo
by Jeff Scheid
Below are excerpts from two articles that may help give insight into
the political workings of Steve Wynn, and the reason he seems to always
get his way, at least in Las Vegas:
Impresario Leaves Little to Chance
The New York Times
Sunday, December 6, 1998
By BRETT PULLEY
"Steve Wynn's control over politicians is all-encompassing," said
Steve Miller, a former Las Vegas City Council member who has frequently
been at odds with Wynn. "It's overwhelming. Either you work for him or
he tries to get you out of office." Considered by many Nevadans to be the
most powerful man in the state, Wynn gets roadways rerouted, public transportation
projects scuttled and public land deeded over to his company.
|Tuesday, March 07, 2000
Copyright © Las Vegas Review-Journal
By Trevor Hayes
Wynn lofty visionary
Former Las Vegas Councilman Steve Miller also hopes Wynn will opt
out of politics. "The influence peddling he has displayed in the state
of Nevada ... has caused him to fall from favor not only of his fellow
Nevadans but observers outside," Steve Miller said. Wynn should be remembered
"as a blowhard and a manipulator and a corrupter of politicians," said
the former councilman, once the target of a Wynn lawsuit.
After Wynn's first offers were received, the Las Vegas County Club Board
of Directors immediately went on the defensive and wrote a letter to members
"Although we intend to approach this matter with open minds, we must
advise you that the last appraisal of the real estate owned by our club...
was dramatically higher than the Wynn Resorts' proposal."
Also, no plans were mentioned for the future of the property after the
first two years of Wynn ownership, the letter stated.
Wynn Resorts officials say that its their intention to buy the course
to accommodate an expected overflow of guests from the nearby Wynn Las
Vegas mega resort on the Las Vegas Strip, which also will have its own
The letter from the Country Club Board of Directors went on: "Until
such time as your board has an opportunity to analyze the offer and make
a recommendation, you are advised not to sign and return the irrevocable
proxy" contained in Wynn's solicitation. "If you sign and return
this document, you are giving away your right to evaluate and vote on the
Wynn Resorts' proposal and you will not have any opportunity to change
your mind at a later date."
Many believe that Wynn's current offer is very low considering the future
development potential of the course as well as its valuable underground
water rights that could be transferred to his nearby Wynn mega resort to
supply the needs of extravagant water features. If this were to happen,
the lush Las Vegas Country Club and its surrounding estates would have
to tap into the dwindling public water supply, and probably be forced to
convert to desert landscaping consisting of gravel, rocks and cactus.
Wynn is building a tropical-themed $2.4 billion, 2,700-room hotel-casino
development on the Strip side of the Desert Inn site. He recently announced
plans to build a second tower with about 1,300 rooms on the north side
of the current project for an estimated $500 million, hence his need of
additional water resources.
University of Nevada, Las Vegas professor and casino industry expert
Bill Thompson said the buyout will be positive as long as Wynn maintains
the country club as a golf course. However, Hal Rothman, chairman of the
history department at UNLV, told Rod Smith of the Las
Vegas Review-Journal, that its likely Wynn is more interested in
the golf course for the water rights.
"Owning another golf course gives him control over its water features.
Water features are important to Wynn and they have been a key for every
resort he has built," Rothman said, "That's what he did at
the Dunes (which he destroyed along with its golf course to build the Bellagio).
These older courses have so much in water rights attached to them, they
free developers from water restrictions." "Given the drought, you may see
other golf courses becoming targets of developers."
Rothman also lamented about the flight of well-to-do Las Vegans
from the old city where the Country Club is located, to the new developments
in Summerlin and Henderson. Las Vegas has paid scant attention to redeveloping
its inner city which inspires such migration, and inspires the exploitation
of historical resources such as the D.I. Estates and now the LV Country
The site of the Las Vegas Country Club was first developed in 1920 as
Las Vegas' first airport. The airfield was later moved to the present location
of McCarran International Airport on Paradise Road.
The property was bought out of bankruptcy in the early 1960s and developed
into the first true country club in Las Vegas which opened in 1967.
In late 1970, it was sold to four partners -- Moe Dalitz, Harry Lahr,
Nate Adelson and Irwin Molasky -- who renamed it the Las Vegas Country
Club and took it private in July 1971.
And so it goes. In a town that was once built on trust, the icon of
local developers has turned another once-peaceful oasis into a war zone.
And, based on his recent history, the wishes of the community that made
him the success he is may soon crumble to his whims once again.
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