Settlement bars developer Milam from doing business in Henderson

Defendant allegedly intended to flip land instead developing a sports complex

City Hall just gave Chris Milam the boot.

Milam, whose proposed sports complex in Henderson led to the city suing him for fraud, has been banned from working on future developments in Henderson as part of a settlement of the case.

John Bailey, a lawyer for City Hall, announced the settlement at a hearing Tuesday in Clark County District Court. Terms are expected to be finalized Thursday.

Also as part of the deal, Milam’s lenders that planned to help him buy the 485-acre project site from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, have essentially taken over the project, which is on land zoned for stadium or arena development. The city is potentially open to other commercial development on the site — just not housing alone.

The lenders must pay the city $250,000 by 5 p.m. Friday to cover legal costs and effectively keep the deal alive, and then pay City Hall another $4.25 million in order to close escrow on the land.

The escrow-closing date has been scheduled for March 28, but as part of the settlement, it would be extended to May 13.

After the hearing Tuesday, City Attorney Josh Reid said the settlement is “very beneficial” to the city. Reid also said he’s interested in seeing a development on the stadium project site that brings jobs and tax revenue to Henderson, but not single-family homes.

Milam was accused of trying to flip the property to homebuilders, in violation of his development pact with City Hall.

Reid could not confirm if the city has ever barred a developer from doing business in the city, though he said Milam’s attorneys offered that provision. According to Reid, city officials made it clear they would not work with Milam on future real estate deals.

“The writing was on the wall that there had to be a new group to come in,” Reid said.

Milam attorney Terry Coffing could not be reached to comment on Reid’s claim that Milam’s legal team proposed the ban.

Milam, who lives in Texas, laid out plans for an indoor arena and three stadiums near the M Resort as part of the Las Vegas National Sports Complex, though no teams have committed to the facilities. The combined price was expected to be more than $1 billion.

The city of Henderson on Jan. 28 sued Milam, his lawyers John Marchiano and Christopher Stephens, land consultant Michael Ford and public relations-lobbying chief Lee Haney. Instead of following through on their project plans, efforts were made to sell the land “piecemeal” to residential and commercial developers at a “substantial profit,” the lawsuit said.

The suit came two months after Milam allegedly paid the balance of the land’s $10.5 million purchase price and, that same day in late November, backed out of the project. He hand-delivered a letter to City Hall saying he was terminating the development agreement because the arena plans were not viable.

Milam secretly reached a deal with Las Vegas developer Juliet Cos. in August to develop part of the site as residential homes and later claimed that even if he sold the entire site for $100 million, he would “leave most of the profit on the table,” according to court papers filed by the city last month.

An attorney for Juliet said his client signed a “nonbinding letter of intent” with Milam’s group and “never reached any actual agreement or deal” with them.

The Henderson City Council in September 2011 approved an initial project agreement with Milam’s group and voted to support the BLM land sale. In its lawsuit, the city sought a judgment declaring that the development agreement remains in full force, as well as a court order that bars the defendants from selling or developing the land for any uses not outlined in the agreement. The city also sought unspecified punitive damages.

Stephens paid $750 to settle the accusations against him. District Court Judge Susan W. Scann in late February dismissed the city’s original fraud and conspiracy allegations, though she granted a motion by City Hall to add Ford’s consulting firm — Henderson-based Abbey, Stubbs & Ford LLC — to the group of defendants.

At the hearing Tuesday, lawyers for Marchiano, Ford and Haney said they need to discuss the settlement with their clients.