The mystery may soon get solved about the massive land-buying spree near Fairfield by one private company, and it may not be so sinister after all.
We told you last month about this land-purchasing spree by a company called Flannery Associates, which had snatched up 52,000 acres of mostly contiguous properties over the last five years. In total, they've paid nearly $1 billion to date for 140 properties in the Jepson Prairie and Montezuma Hills areas of Solano County, and this has raised some national security concerns due to the proximity to Travis Air Force Base, which borders some of the properties.
But as the Chronicle reports today, residents in Solano County have been receiving a survey seeking their opinion about the proposed development of "tens of thousands of new homes," as well as "a large solar energy farm, orchards with over a million new trees, and over 10,000 acres of new parks and open space."
This sounds a lot like the development of a whole new city on what's now, primarily, agriculturally zoned land. And that would explain why Flannery has been willing to pay top dollar — around $15,000 per acre — for the land, because the profitability could be very high in the end, at that scale.
Fairfield Mayor Catherine Moy caught wind of the survey being circulated, and it began going around "a few days ago," as she writes on Facebook.
"Until now, Flannery’s plans and identity have remained shrouded in secrecy," Moy writes. "A lawyer representing Flannery would not divulge who the people behind the secretive corporation are, only saying that they were mostly Americans."
She adds that the poll indicates the group is "being led by a group of architects and planners interested in building livable and sustainable communities, not typical developers," and "It is being funded by a group of California firms and wealthy families who are committed to our state’s future."
The poll appears to be laying the groundwork for a ballot measure, to be put on the 2024 ballot, asking Solano County residents to approve the creation of this new town — and, presumably, the rezoning that will be required to do it.
"As the mayor of Fairfield, I sit on countywide boards that have received Flannery offers to buy land at greatly inflated prices. We turned the offers away to protect Travis [Air Force Base]," Moy says. She also suggests that the land buy-up could present an existential threat to Travis, as Flannery now owns land completely encircling the base — though it's not entirely clear what the strategy is here, where Flannery is concerned.
"Travis AFB is the largest economic driver of Solano County, bringing in nearly $3 billion annually to our local economies," Moy writes. "If its mission were compromised, it would devastate northern Solano County and hurt national defense."
Before becoming mayor, Moy was a veteran journalist, and she says she was the first to write about Flannery buying up land after she heard what they were offering to some local farmers. She also claims that the land offers have "destroyed families that have farmed in eastern Solano County for 3 and 4 generations," and "pit[ted] family member against family member over Flannery’s money."
The poll talks up the project as a great economic boon for the county, and how it would "generate tens of millions of dollars in new tax revenue each year for the county to help reduce crime and improve schools."
"Please indicate whether this would make you much more likely to support this project, somewhat more likely, no more likely, or less likely to support," knowing this, the poll instructs.
The mystery development corp. also promises to bring water to the water-starved area, which currently accounts for only five percent of the county's agricultural output, they say. "[We] would replace Solano County’s current aqueduct, which is one of the most polluted in California, with a new one that would provide clean water," the poll says.
Moy says she tried many times to figure out who is actually behind this, and she couldn't even figure out who was administering the poll — an email she tried to send bounced back.
In any event, it sounds like with all the investment made so far, it shouldn't be long before Flannery comes out from the shadows and makes the full scope of their intentions clear.