Complex Running Horse Deal Brings Mixed Reactions: KFSN-TV30, Fresno CA, 11/16/07

By Gene Haagenson

Fresno's mayor believes a new deal with Donald Trump will take the risk out of Running Horse.

Mayor Alan Autry says Trump has agreed to buy most of the land if the city picks up the remaining parcels and sells them to him.

Fresno's mayor and city manger feel this offer by Trump gets the city off the hook financially if the deal falls apart, but not everyone's convinced.

Mayor Alan Autry believes Trump's offer to put options, in effect his own money, on most of the Running Horse property makes it a deal worth doing.

"What we're dealing with now is absolutely the framework for a deal to be made that puts the city at a minimal risk," said Alan Autry.

Trump would put 90 day options to buy on the land held by the lenders who took 436 acres back in a bankruptcy auction.

The city would then have to secure another 50 acres owned by a few individuals and sell it to Trump.

20 of those are held by a Mr. Ho who has so far refused to sell. Trump wants the city to deal with him because the city can force a sale.

"That's why we retain the power of eminent domain, if it gets to the absurd. If somebody's property is worth say $3 million and they want to hold out for $20 million, it's clear the law was written for the greater good of the city," said Alan Autry.

City Council Member Brian Calhoun says he thinks the deal sounds good, except for the possible use of eminent domain.

"We're going to be the poster child for bad use of eminent domain because we'll be on national news. Your national networks will pick it up that Fresno California is using eminent domain to throw somebody off their land to buy Trump a golf course," said Brian Calhoun.

"I kind of resent it because it's silly and it's really denigrating to people who live in southwest Fresno to frame this as giving something to a billionaire developer," said Alan Autry.

Autry says the development would mean jobs and prosperity. Council Member Jerry Duncan thinks it all sounds promising.

"The bulk of risk has now been shifted to the Trump organization which has been my big concern. I was not going to put the taxpayers at risk," said Duncan.

But Council Member Mike Dages feels there are too many unanswered questions.

"You're just putting everything in place to maybe buy something. I don't do maybe transactions," said Mike Dages.

The memorandum of understanding between the city and Trump to make this deal will go before the city council on Tuesday. It needs five votes to pass.

If approved, the city expects to sign a contract with Trump next month and work on the Running Horse development, which will be renamed Trump National Fresno.

KFSN-TV30, Fresno CA: http://abclocal.go.com/kfsn