— by Jeffrey Wisniewski — 23 May 2013 — 1 comment »
CASINO MAY BE IN THE CARDS FOR HERCULES – DEVELOPER PETER KIESECKER CALLS THE IDEA “A VERY REAL POSSIBILITY”
Monday, January 5, 2004
By Tom Lochner
Although city officials and a casino promoter have downplayed rumors of an American Indian casino in Franklin Canyon, a developer says he was approached about it more than four months ago and that the idea is very much alive.
Peter Kiesecker, president of GreenPark Holdings LLC of Seal Beach, says real estate broker John Troughton first approached him with the idea in late August.
GreenPark has an application before the city to build more than 500 homes, a hotel, offices and stores in Franklin Canyon.
Troughton, whose firm, Cushman & Wakefield, has an exclusive brokerage agreement with the city’s Redevelopment Agency, is shopping around Contra Costa County for a casino venue for the Guidiville Band of Pomo Indians; an attempt to find one in Antioch failed.
In early September, Troughton e-mailed Kiesecker asking for a meeting at a Crockett restaurant in hopes of hammering out a deal for a casino in Franklin Canyon.
Kiesecker says he didn’t go. But later that month, Troughton again invited Kiesecker, this time to meet with him and some casino representatives.
“We may be moving toward another site,” Troughton told Kiesecker in an e-mail, “but the tribe and the investors are captivated with the opportunity in Franklin Canyon.”
Again, Kiesecker said, he did not go.
“I’d rather create a residential community,” Kiesecker said. But if the city will not approve it, then a casino could be an alternative, he said.
Supporters of GreenPark’s residential proposal say it would create jobs, generate developer fees for the city and pump up property values elsewhere in Hercules . Critics say it would harm wildlife and streams, scar the landscape and bring traffic and pollution.
Last week, Kiesecker said he was bothered by reports that some residents believe he is putting out false rumors of a casino to scare them into rallying behind his residential development proposal.
“It is not a red herring,” Kiesecker said. “It is not a scare tactic. It is a very real possibility.”
A telephone survey in early December, which no one has admitted sponsoring, asked residents how they felt about several hypothetical scenarios for Franklin Canyon, including a casino.
The survey also asked homeowners’ views about the possibility of paying an annual assessment of $150 for 30 years to buy the property as open space. The survey also asked their views about the possibility of a lawsuit by GreenPark against the city on the grounds that it isn’t processing the application with due diligence.
“I’m not saying I’m not doing the polling,” Kiesecker said. “Those are certainly the questions I would ask.”
Kiesecker said he thinks he is unfairly taking a public relations beating over the casino idea while others remain aloof.
“(Troughton) says he doesn’t know about a gambling casino , yet he was trying to woo us three months ago,” Kiesecker said.
In November, Troughton said he was not negotiating for a casino in Hercules but that “if anybody wants to pick up the phone, I’m listening.”
“You never know,” he said. “(Hercules is) a nice place, obviously. I live there.”
Troughton did not return calls last week.
City Manager Mike Sakamoto and community development director Steve Lawton said in November there was no plan to build a casino in Hercules.
Two weeks ago, Troughton said he was “shocked” when he heard about the telephone survey and suggested it might have been sponsored by “an anti-casino group trying to poison the waters.”
“We don’t have anything to do with Hercules,” Troughton said. Asked specifically whether he and his group had any designs on the GreenPark property, Troughton answered, “What I thought is (GreenPark has) a development process ongoing.”
Troughton said he is close to a deal for a casino in one or two other undisclosed locations in the region.
Kiesecker said he believes he has three choices: “development, sale or litigation.” He would rather not sell to a casino, he added.
Kiesecker said he believes the city is unnecessarily drawing out the completion of an environmental impact report and running up the cost.
Two years after he filed his application to build homes, the report is unfinished and the tab stands at $878,000. A draft report generated 600 pages of comments by about two dozen agencies and more than 50 individuals.
Based on similar projects GreenPark has completed elsewhere in California, the environmental studies should cost $150,000 to $300,000, Kiesecker said
Kiesecker has balked at paying more and has demanded an audit. By failing to complete the environmental report in a timely manner, the city is lowering perceptions of the property’s value and promoting the notion that GreenPark will be forced to bail out, he said.
“We are getting calls from other developers that want to step into our place, if they can get (the property) at a discount,” Kiesecker said.
But Kiesecker says he is not about to throw in the towel.
Lawton said there is no basis for Kiesecker’s complaints and that the city-commissioned preparation of environmental documents has been “totally normal” and in accordance with state law.
“Staff has diligently followed the instructions of the applicant,” Lawton said. “We have followed the instructions of the Planning Commission — and the City Council.
“We are very confident we have done what we were supposed to do. We have carried out in a faithful manner all the work.”