With Petition Backers Revealed, Elk Grove Has Options To Keep Casino Project Afloat

December 6, 2016 |

Now that the identity of the group backing the petition to kill the Elk Grove casino has been revealed, what options does the City of Elk Grove have at its disposal to keep the project from stalling?

The most obvious option is to challenge the validity of not only the signatures gathered, but the wording of the petition itself. Alternatively, the City could potentially short-circuit the lawsuit and ballot referendum by adopting any number of creative alternatives. 

For example, with the mutual consent of Howard Hughes Company, M & H Realty, and the other affected property owners, the entire Development Agreement (DA) could be scrapped. Readers may recall that M&H had threatened to sue the City because they felt the DA was too restrictive on their properties. 

It would seem that the whole Agreement is long overdue for an overhaul because it relied on the mall to set the surrounding wheels in motion, and we know Regal Theater Group has also filed a lawsuit against HHC for their lack of progress. Without a DA encumbering the property, the casino is free to move forward in their application process.

While the DA ensures that critical city objectives are carried out by the property owners as a condition of development, there are "many other ways to skin a rabbit." 

As you may recall, the City was comfortable with an MOU process (Memorandum of Understanding) with the Tribe to ensure adequate fiscal mitigation was in place, so conceivably, a recorded MOU could also be prepared with the other affected properties once HHC sells off their portion of casino land. The MOU could be supplemented with recorded deed restrictions that run with the land to ensure future buyers are bound to the same terms. 

Another way to short circuit the lawsuit and referendum is to have the casino withdraw their request and find another location in the vicinity that is not covered by a DA, thereby alleviating the Bureau of Indian Affairs' requirement to have no encumbrances on the casino land. 

HHC might not be too happy about losing a land deal, but the City would likely accommodate the tribe in its quest, because the potential number of jobs created by the casino would let the City off the hook in terms of having to set aside some South East Policy Area land for jobs, and would help justify its 8,000-acre city boundary expansion application. Once the casino jobs are programmed in, the City has a clear path to more rooftops and retail which has characterized the growth pattern of the city since incorporation. 

Undoubtedly there are many other ways to bypass the lawsuit and referendum just waiting to be discovered by the team of legal experts representing the City, HHC, and Las Vegas-based Boyd Gaming, who is underwriting the Wilton Rancheria venture. We all know a 100-acre City-owned hayfield, aka Field of Dreams, that would let the City off the hook in having to explain why the soccer stadium and County Fair is unlikely ever to happen! 

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