Developer gets one more shot
by Jon Mendelson
Mar 22, 2013 | 5784 views | 8 8 comments | 23 23 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A developer who hopes to build a massive entertainment complex north of Tracy has one more chance to prove the project’s mettle to elected officials before they say they will pull the plug.

On Tuesday, March 19, the City Council unanimously told James Rogers, the chief executive officer of Spirit of California, that he must adequately answer questions about his past business dealings or risk the city ending negotiations regarding his planned amusement park, racetrack and casino center.

Rogers is operating under an exclusive negotiating agreement between the city and Tracy Blast LLC, but said he needs to establish one between the city and Spirit of California to move the project forward.

Following a meeting that included raised voices, Mayor Brent Ives said, “It’s time for push to come to shove.”

“There’s so much at stake,” he said. “It’s bigger than anything we’ve ever done. … We can’t work on benefit of the doubt any more.”

During the meeting, Ives agreed with city staff members that Rogers’ explanations of several liens and lawsuits, as well as a business bankruptcy, were too vague.

Staff asked Rogers in a Feb. 7 letter to describe the status, officers and purpose of seven companies and his involvement with them, as well as his connection to 10 liens, five lawsuits and the bankruptcy of Lexington Consulting Inc.

Rogers wrote a Feb. 20 letter to the city stating that either the companies in question are inactive or the liens and lawsuits against them have been resolved or are near resolution. He also wrote that the 2012 bankruptcy of Lexington Consulting was filed solely “to assist one of my investors.”

“None of the issues over the last 15 years have any effect on my ability to manage the Tracy project,” he wrote. “In fact, my conflict resolution experience will only enhance my ability to bring the Tracy project to completion.”

Rogers said liens and lawsuits are part of his job.

“It’s the nature of the beast,” he said. “You don’t have to be fraudulent to be involved in litigation.”

Though all five council members said the project could provide employment, entertainment and revenue opportunities to the city, they balked at entering a new negotiating agreement with Spirit of California.

They decided instead to give Rogers 30 days to provide more detailed answers.

City staff will have 30 days after that to review the information and was directed to meet with Rogers or his representatives once every two weeks until the matter is returned to the council for a decision.

“You have got to prove to us that this project is viable,” Ives told Rogers, pointing to several residents who spoke in favor of the project. “It’s incumbent on you to do that, not just for us, but for those people out there. This is a game-changer — this is a big deal to us. We could be the fathers of something wonderful or something that is terrible.”

Mayor Pro Tem Michael Maciel warned Rogers he was running out of opportunities to sway the council.

“My feeling is that if this council agrees tonight to give you 30 days to answer these issues, that this is the last chance,” he said. “That would be, if we do this, an opportunity to rehabilitate yourself in the eyes of this council and regain some of that confidence.”

Rogers agreed to provide as much information as possible within that time.

“I have nothing to hide,” he said after the meeting. “I’ve never done anything fraudulent where you wouldn’t want to deal with me.”

He also was confident he would be able to satisfy the council.

“I think it is their (council members’) objective to be looking out for the city,” he said. “It may seem contentious, but I took it as the appropriate way the City Council should approach it.”

Rogers told the council he knows of at least $300 million that could be used to fund the project, though he also said the money is not yet committed. He said his larger investors want financial projections that would be ready as early as April, as well as more assurance from the city, before they formally sign on.

He added after the meeting that about 15 Tracy residents have invested at least $5,000 each in the project.

While Ives sees great promise in Rogers’ proposal, he said he and the other council members feel a duty to tread carefully and protect the city and its residents.

“That local investor piece is huge for the council,” he said. “People are placing their trust in him.”

• Contact Jon Mendelson at 835-3030 or jmendelson@tracypress.com.



At a glance

• WHAT: Tracy City Council regular meeting

• WHEN: 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 19

• WHERE: City Hall, 333 Civic Center Plaza

• DETAILS: Mayor Brent Ives, Mayor Pro Tem Michael Maciel and council members Charles Manne, Robert Rickman and Nancy Young were present.
Comments
(8)
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rayderfan
|
March 22, 2013
I find it rather amusing that the Mayor and City Council are all of a sudden worried about signing an agreement with a developer.

They probably should have used the same discretion before entering into any agreements with Surland regarding the Ellis project, don't you think?

It appears that many of the items that concern them about the Spirit of California are also items experienced by the Surland Co.

klv
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March 22, 2013
It's premature thinking and redundancy in American history to dismiss organized crime intimidation which hasn't been involved ("Rogers told the council he knows of at least $300 million that could be used to fund the project, though he also said the money is not yet committed.")in gaming, horse (doping) racing, boxing, other sporting events, games of chance (illegal betting), profit skimming, income tax evasion; And hopefully the City Council is smart enough by avoiding a larger hole ("Rogers said liens and lawsuits are part of his job.")later problems being linked to collusion and racketeering if acknowledged to be a part of an illicit group of businesses. What percentage of this money will benefit Tracy in exchange for many of the other social problems?

And if the Indians had Sovereignty why didn't they open their books - if they can't be prosecuted?

Anybody whose grown up on the East Coast, or Chicago has seen all this before. The first thing will be the numbers game. I'm leaning toward C3TJ.
me-here
|
March 25, 2013
raydergan, YOU GOT THAT RIGHT !!!
C3TJ
|
March 22, 2013
If you google the 2009-2010 Yolo County Grand Jury Report (I doubt I can post the direct link) they concluded that a similar casino caused traffic to increase 48%, DUI arrests 1050%, Vehicle Code arrests 1300%, ADW arrests 2900%, Burglary arrests 900%, Grand theft srrests 433% and misdemeanor gambling arrests 100%. The other interesting thing about the report is that the tribe operating the casino refused to cooperate with the grand jury since they're a sovereign entity.

Hey Tracy city council, are you paying attention?
backinblack
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March 22, 2013
C3TJ, As mentioned I haven't been paying much attention to this nor cared to take time to research it so thanks for the effort and info, interesting.

Common sense pretty much tells us these things happen around casino's but too many people these days voice opinions based on minimal info so good job of validating mommyofthree's assertion.

I hope I'm not wrong is assuming the City Council is aware of these stats and hopefully has the same type of info from a variety of casino locations.
backinblack
|
March 22, 2013
mommyofthree, First off I have no opinion about this project as I haven't followed it so I'm not being biased. Do you have any emperical data to back up your belief casino's bring trouble & shady people?

I'm sincerely interested so if you or anyone else who supports your assertion can provide some facts such as crime statistics at or in the surrounding area of casino's I'd love to review the info.
mommyofthree
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March 22, 2013
What do casinos and gambling bring???? Trouble and shady people. Do we need any more of that here in Tracy? NO!
MrSycamore
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March 23, 2013
I agree with you on this mommyof3. This has bad news written all over it.


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