Running Horse Revival?

June 11, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
There may be new life for the trouble Running Horse golf course and housing development. A potential new buyer has emerged, but not everybody is convinced the talks are anything more than preliminary.There's a spot that used to have a post marking it as hole number one on the golf course, but now, the marker's gone and there's no sign of life at all. But on the business end, a group from Florida may be breathing life into the deal.

The weeds on the unfinished golf course are as thorny as the negotiations to get the project off the ground.

While the greens turned brown, dozens of lawsuits have sprouted and even Donald Trump couldn't pull off a deal to save the development.

Now, the Omega Commercial Financial Corporation is the latest group to sign a letter of intent to make the deal work.

Their executives didn't return repeated phone calls, but CEO Jon S. Cummings IV issued a statement saying: "We consider Running Horse a diamond in the rough."

But they may not have gotten far along in negotiations. Attorney Harry Pascuzzi represents contractors who built the partial golf course.

They're suing all the land owners, and the lawsuit could hold up any deal for six months, but they haven't heard from the potential buyers yet.

"I think the letter of intent is tenuous at best," he said. "I'd love to see how it works out, how much money is behind it."

The group also hasn't spoken to the city of Fresno yet, but Mayor Ashley Swearengin is behind the basic idea.

"We are encouraged to see the continued interest in private sector development of projects benefiting Southwest Fresno," she said.

Pascuzzi is surprised any potential buyer wouldn't talk to his clients or to the city before announcing a deal in the works.

"I don't know that someone could put together a viable letter of intent without talking to Mick [Evans, Pascuzzi's biggest Running Horse client], talking to the city of Fresno," he said. "There are just so many moving parts with this thing, you can't just go to one or two of the parts and say, 'Hey, we've got a letter of intent.'"

The Omega group is dealing with the land owners, developer G.J. Gardner, and one of the original investors, Gary Vigen, who's been trying to revive the project ever since it fell apart.

He says it'll cost $40 million to finish phase one, which includes 9 holes, and more than 200 homes. A representative for G.J. Gardner says they expect to sell out all those homes relatively easily.

The PGA is still planning to sanction the course if everything goes as planned, which is a big draw for potential homeowners.

Several of the homeowners who live where the golf course is supposed to go say all this talk is just par for the course. They say a deal would be great, but they won't believe it until they actually see the money.

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