Tejon's Wildlife Corridor Cutting Project faces massive legal maze
---straight from their own stock disclosure filings:
--also, Tejon's financial partners in 20,000 home "Centennial" project in L.A. County have pulled their cash out
TEJON RANCH CO - FORM 10-Q - August 6, 2010
On October 5, 2009, the Kern County Board of Supervisors granted entitlement approval for Tejon Mountain Village, or TMV. On November 10, 2009, a group consisting of the Center for Biological Diversity, or CBD, Wishtoyo Foundation, Tri-County Watchdogs and the Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment filed an action in Kern Superior Court under the California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA, against Kern County and the Kern County Board of Supervisors, or collectively, the County, concerning the County’s granting of approval for TMV, including the certification of the Environmental Impact Report, or EIR, approval of associated General Plan amendments, adoption of associated Zoning Maps, adoption of Special Plan No. 1, Map 256, exclusion from Agricultural Preserves Nos. 4 and 19, and approval of Vesting Tentative Tract Maps 6720 and 6717, among other associated approvals. TMV is named as the Real Party in Interest in the action.
The action alleges that the County failed to properly follow the procedures and requirements of CEQA including failure to identify, analyze and mitigate impacts to air quality, biological resources, hydrology and water quality, traffic, cultural resources, hazards, and failure to adequately describe the project and the environmental setting. The action also alleges that the County violated the Planning and Zoning Law and the Kern County General Plan.
The Company believes the EIR sufficiently addresses all environmental impacts of the project. As the developer and beneficiary of the County EIR approval, the Company is actively involved in supporting the County as it defends the approval of the project. The case is expected to be heard by the Kern Superior Court in 2010. If the plaintiffs do not prevail in their initial action, it is expected they would appeal the decision. The Company intends to provide financial support to the County in defense of their decision.
On November 10, 2009, an additional suit was filed in Federal Court by an alleged representative of the Kawaiisu Tribe alleging that the Company does not hold legal title to the land within the TMV development that it seeks to develop. The grounds for the federal lawsuit were the subject of a United States Supreme Court decision in 1924 where the United States Supreme Court found in favor of the Company.
On February 10, 2010, an individual and a related limited liability company, (collectively “Burrows”), filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles County regarding the allocation of certain water, land and entitlement processing rights as between Burrows, Tejon and Tejon’s partners for the Centennial project in Los Angeles County. The lawsuit arises from and relates to a 2006 settlement agreement between Burrows and the Company involving a land swap, water rights and entitlement processing requirements relating to Centennial and certain properties owned by Burrows in the immediate vicinity of the Centennial site.
A previously issued temporary restraining order was dissolved by the judge assigned to the Burrows lawsuit. The case is still in the preliminary pleading stage. The Company and Centennial Founders LLC are aggressively defending this lawsuit. The Company has secured the services of an outside law firm to litigate this claim. Given the preliminary nature of this lawsuit, the Company has an insufficient basis to address the merits or potential outcomes of the Burrows lawsuit. The monetary value of a potential adverse outcome on the claim likewise cannot be estimated at this time.
The Company leases land to National Cement Company of California Inc., or National, for the purpose of manufacturing Portland cement from limestone deposits on the leased acreage. The California Regional Water Quality Control Board, or RWQCB, for the Lahontan Region has issued several orders with respect to environmental conditions on the property currently leased to National:
(1) Groundwater plume of chlorinated hydrocarbon compounds. This order directs the Company’s former tenant Lafarge Corporation, or Lafarge, the current tenant National, and the Company to, among other things, clean up groundwater contamination on the leased property. In 2003, Lafarge and National installed a groundwater pump-and-treat system to clean up the groundwater. The Company is advised that Lafarge and National continue to operate the cleanup system and will continue to do so over the near-term.
(2) Cement kiln dust. National and Lafarge have consolidated, closed and capped cement kiln dust piles located on land leased from the Company. An order of the RWQCB directs National, Lafarge and the Company to maintain and monitor the effectiveness of the cap. Maintenance of the cap and groundwater monitoring remain as on-going activities.
(3) Former industrial waste landfills. This order requires Lafarge, National and the Company to complete the cleanup of groundwater associated with the former industrial waste landfills. The Company is advised that the cleanup is complete. Lafarge continues to monitor the groundwater.
(4) Diesel fuel. An order of the RWQCB directs Lafarge, National and the Company to clean up contamination from a diesel fuel tank and pipeline. The Company is advised that Lafarge and National have substantially completed the groundwater cleanup and that groundwater monitoring remains an on-going activity.
To date, the Company is not aware of any failure by Lafarge or National to comply with the orders or informal requests of the RWQCB. Under current and prior leases, National and Lafarge are obligated to indemnify the Company for costs and liabilities arising directly or indirectly out of their use of the leased premises. The Company believes that all of the matters described above are included within the scope of the National or Lafarge indemnity obligations and that Lafarge and National have sufficient resources to perform any reasonably likely obligations relating to these matters. If they do not and the Company is required to perform the work at its own cost, it is unlikely that the amount of any such expenditure by the Company would be material.
On November 29, 2004, a complaint was filed by the County of Los Angeles asking for the Antelope Valley ground water basin to be adjudicated. This means that the rights of all parties overlying the basin, including the Company’s land, should be fixed based on various principles of water law and on negotiations among the principal parties or groups of water users. Because the case is still in the early stages and not at issue, it is too early to ascertain what effect, if any, this case may have on the Centennial project or the Company’s remaining lands in the Antelope Valley. Because the water supply plan for the Centennial project includes several sources of water in addition to ground water underlying the Company’s lands, and because the creation of an efficient market for local water rights is frequently an outcome of adjudication proceedings, we anticipate that sufficient water to supply the Centennial project’s needs will continue to be available for its use.
On May 12, 2010, the Attorney General, on behalf of the State Water Resources Control Board, filed a complaint in the Alameda County Superior Court for civil penalties and a permanent injunction against TravelCenters of America LLC, or TA, facilities in the Central Valley of California. The travel centers in the Petro Travel Plaza Holdings LLC, or TA/Petro, were also included in the complaint. The lawsuit claims violations of various paper reporting, operating and UST monitoring prevention laws. In addition to the TA/Petro entity and its respective member entities, the lawsuit also names the Company and Tejon Industrial Corporation. The Company has tendered defense of the lawsuit to TA, under the “defend and indemnify” clause in the LLC’s operating agreement, and has also secured the services of an outside law firm to work with TA’s outside counsel under a joint defense agreement. Counsel for TA and the Company are working together to attempt to change the venue of the lawsuit to Kern, or another Central Valley, County, and to dismiss the Company and TIC, as well as other TA entities, from the lawsuit. Given the preliminary nature of this lawsuit, the Company has an insufficient basis to address the merits or potential outcomes of the lawsuit. The monetary value of a potential adverse outcome on the claim likewise cannot be estimated at this time.
On June 3, 2010, Central Delta and South Delta Water Agencies and several environmental groups, including CBD, filed a complaint in the Sacramento County Superior Court against the California Department of Water Resources (DWR), Kern County Water Agency and a number of “real parties in interest,” including the Company and Tejon Castac Water District, or TCWD. The lawsuit challenges certain amendments to the State Water Project contracts that were originally approved in 1995, known as the “Monterey Amendments.” The original EIR for the Monterey Amendments was determined to be insufficient in a lawsuit, and the current lawsuit challenges the remedial EIR that DWR prepared as a result of the original lawsuit. Among other legal allegations, the current lawsuit challenges the transfer of the Kern Water Bank, or KWB, from DWR to Kern County Water Agency and in turn to various Kern County interests, including TCWD which has a 2% interest in the KWB. A parallel lawsuit was also filed against Kern County Water Agency, also naming the Company and TCWD as real parties in interest. The Company is named on the ground that it “controls” TCWD. TCWD has a contract right for water stored in the KWB and rights to recharge and withdraw water. Counsel for the Company is considering a dismissal of the Company from these lawsuits. Given the preliminary nature of these lawsuits, the Company has an insufficient basis to address the merits or potential outcomes of the lawsuit. The monetary value of a potential adverse outcome on the claim likewise cannot be estimated at this time.
NOTE E – INVESTMENT IN UNCONSOLIDATED JOINT VENTURES
The Company maintains investments in joint ventures. The Company accounts for its investments in unconsolidated joint ventures using the equity method of accounting unless the venture is a variable interest entity, or VIE, and meets the requirements for consolidation. The Company’s investment in its unconsolidated joint ventures at June 30, 2010 was $47,020,000. The equity in the earnings of the unconsolidated joint ventures was $13,000 for the six months ended June 30, 2010. These joint ventures have not been consolidated as of June 30, 2010, because they are not VIEs and the Company does not control the investments. The Company’s current joint ventures are as follows:
•Petro Travel Plaza Holdings LLC – TA/Petro is an unconsolidated joint venture with Travel Centers of America, LLC for the development and management of travel plazas and convenience stores. This is a 60%-owned joint venture which owns and operates travel plazas/commercial highway operations in TIC. It houses multiple commercial eating establishments as well as diesel and gasoline operations. The Company does not control the investment due to its having only 50% voting rights, and because our partner in the joint venture performs the day-to-day operations at the facility. At June 30, 2010, the Company had an equity investment balance of $9,014,000 in this joint venture.
•Tejon Mountain Village LLC – Tejon Mountain Village LLC is an unconsolidated joint venture between the Company and DMB TMV LLC (a wholly owned subsidiary of DMB Associates, Inc.) formed to obtain all necessary government entitlement approvals and to develop the Tejon Mountain Village project. The Company owns a 50% interest in this venture. At June 30, 2010, the Company’s equity investment balance in this joint venture was $28,114,000.
•Rockefeller Joint Ventures – The Company has two joint ventures with Rockefeller Group Development Corporation for the development of buildings on approximately 91 acres. These joint ventures are part of an agreement for the development of up to 500 acres of land in TIC including pursuing Foreign Trade Zone, or FTZ, designation and development of the property within the FTZ for warehouse distribution and light manufacturing. The Company owns a 50% interest in each of the joint ventures. Currently the Five West Parcel LLC joint venture owns and leases a 606,000 square foot building. The second of these joint ventures, 18-19 West LLC, was formed in August 2009 through the contribution of 61.5 acres of land by the Company, which is being held for future development. As of June 30, 2010, the Company’s combined equity investment balance in these two joint ventures is $9,892,000.
• Centennial Founders LLC – Centennial Founders LLC is a joint venture with Pardee Homes, Lewis Investment Company, and Standard Pacific Corp. that was organized to pursue the entitlement and development of land that the Company owns in Los Angeles County. The Company had a 50% ownership interest in this joint venture until July 1, 2009 when a change in the joint venture operating agreement resulted in the Company becoming the sole funding partner and satisfying the requirements for controlling the joint venture.
Consequently, the operating results of Centennial Founders LLC were consolidated effective July 1, 2009. Despite this change our partners continue to be involved in an advisory capacity and may re-elect contributing status at a later time by contributing their pro rata share of capital in future capital calls. At June 30, 2010 the Company had a 60.94% ownership position in Centennial Founders LLC. Our partners retained a non-controlling interest in the joint venture.