James Rogers, CEO of Spirit of California LLC, maintains priority status to negotiate for 628 acres of city-owned land. But most of the other parcels identified in plans that Rogers submitted to the city in September are either in private hands or under a separate agreement between the city and Combined Solar Technologies.
People who own or control those properties said this week that they don’t envision their lands as part of the project.
Rogers has expressed confidence all along that rural landowners north of town will support his project.
“All of the major farmers have been contacted, and I’ve met with them numerous times,” he said Friday, Nov. 16.
Rogers said his proposal is still subject to change and can move forward without some of the properties, if the landowners won’t sell.
“Since it came out, we’re doing our best to inform people,” Rogers said. “When we do a presentation, nobody comes away saying they don’t want it.”
Longtime farmer Stevens Arnaudo said he is not planning to sell any of his family’s land. About 113 acres owned by the Arnaudo Bros. farming company on Tracy Boulevard is included at the north end of Spirit of California’s proposed site.
Stevens Arnaudo said he heard about the project when it was proposed as just a race track in 2009, but he had no interest in getting involved.
“He’s now expanded his whole broad thing, and I understand that it includes some of our property,” he said. “Me and most of my neighbors that I know of don’t want it around us. We’re not for it and don’t want to be a part of it in any way, shape or form.”
His son Frank Arnaudo said he met Rogers at an informational meeting on the project about a year ago.
“Some of the neighbors were there, but nobody gave the impression at that time — none of them — that they were interested,” Frank Arnaudo said. “They didn’t think it would get anywhere, anyway.”
The northeast corner of Spirit of California, according to plans Rogers presented to the city in September, includes a golf course on 257 acres owned by the Gaia family.
Rose Gaia said she learned about the project during Rogers’ presentation about a year ago. Since then, she has heard rumors that her family is selling the land, where her 97-year-old mother and her niece live. She said Rogers never approached her about a possible sale.
“He has not talked to me or my family at all,” Gaia said. “The land, at this point, is not for sale, because my mother would never sell it.”
Gaia approached Bob Corsaro, a Spirit of California supporter, during a Tracy City Council meeting Nov. 7 to let him know that she wanted to stay informed about the project.
“Bob Corsaro did tell me they would be calling me and we could go over the plan,” she said.
Combined Solar Technologies plans a wastewater desalinization plant and energy plant on 237 acres of city-owned land between Holly Sugar and Tracy Boulevard. Combined Solar has an exclusive negotiating rights agreement — sometimes abbreviated ENRA — with the city for the land, similar to Rogers’ agreement with the city.
Most of the site Combined Solar Technology seeks to develop is the proposed location of a hotel and casino, according to Spirit of California’s plans.
Scott Mattson, project manager with Combined Solar Technologies, said his company intends for its agreement with the city to stay in place. He said the company is looking toward a spring groundbreaking.
“We have absolutely no intention of giving up our exclusive negotiating rights agreement,” Mattson said. “We paid our money into the ENRA, and we’re good to go within the next 18 months.”
Combined Solar’s agreement with the city allows for negotiation with Tracy’s California Blast, the first incarnation of Spirit of California. That’s an option Rogers says he can still pursue.
Rogers wrote in an email message that his project does not require the land Combined Solar would build on, but he has “a provision in their ENRA that I can move them if I so choose.”
• Contact Bob Brownne at 830-4227 or email@example.com.