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ANTIOCH -- A proposed development of estate-style homes nestled in the hills south of the city is again looking to get back in the saddle.

The partnership group of Gramercy Capital Corp. and former rodeo star and cattle rancher Jack Roddy is working to gain the rights for the future development of about 540 acres in the shadow of Mount Diablo known as Roddy Ranch.

The on-again, off-again process, which began about 15 years ago, is restarting now that Antioch released draft environmental documents for Roddy Ranch in late August.

Standing near the seventh hole green at Roddy Ranch Golf Course last week, Roddy pointed out how about 574 custom homes of varying design would be built in two phases on the land south of Empire Mine Road known as Horse Ranch.

Most lots would be between 15,000 and 20,000 square feet, with about 100 exceeding that amount.

Plans also call for 100 multifamily villas, a hotel of up to 250 rooms near Deer Valley Road and a golf course clubhouse.

"This area needs jobs. We have to get people back to work," Roddy said. "We've spent a tremendous amount of time on this. Whenever the market turns around, we want to be prepared."

The Roddy Ranch project has gone though both political and financial obstacles in the past dozen years.

In 2000, the county Board of Supervisors moved Roddy Ranch outside the city's urban limit line, restricting development to already existing neighborhoods. The decision stripped the land of development potential and subsequently led to a bankruptcy that cost Roddy ownership of the ranch.

Five years later, Antioch voters approved its own boundary that included a significant piece of Roddy Ranch and allowed for the housing development.

Roddy Ranch developers again fell into financial trouble in 2009, as the consortium that owned the development defaulted on a $36 million loan. Gramercy purchased the property at a trustee sale in January 2010.

Antioch started the first environment document process in 2009, determining it should be revised after some changes to plans by the new property owner.

The draft environmental report identifies the physical conditions of the area that would change because of development, specifically saying that it would have an unavoidable effect on air quality, biological species and demand for public services, namely fire protection.

Officials from regional environmental groups Greenbelt Alliance and Save Mount Diablo raised some preliminary concerns last week about those issues, while disputing the report's thoroughness on its study of area habitat, biology and hillside grading.

Seth Adams, Save Mount Diablo's director of land programs, questioned the timing of the review, saying it's premature given the amount of needed roads and utilities and existing Antioch housing market. Perhaps Gramercy is trying to gain the entitlement so it can flip the property and make a profit, he said.

The document itself is inadequate and "leaves more questions than answers," Adams said.

Though development is still a long way off, Antioch leaders envision Roddy Ranch as being a draw for executives who would bring their businesses with them. Roddy says golfers from around the East Bay and Silicon Valley are intrigued by the area and mention they'd like to live there.

"It's an interesting new horizon," Councilman Gary Agopian said.

City leaders also caution that the project must be done right.

Mayor Pro Tem Wade Harper said, as with any project, he wants to make sure adequate studies are done on traffic, public safety and infrastructure so the area is not lacking for services like some parts of southeast Antioch were during its development.

"We have to do it the right way. We have to learn from the mistakes of the past," Harper said.

Comments can be made on the draft environmental report until Oct. 9. The final report is expected to be completed by early next year.

Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.

Roddy Ranch Timeline
1976: Jack Roddy buys 2,156 acres southeast of Antioch.
1996-97: Faced with foreclosure, Roddy forms a partnership with Wayne Pierce, who invests cash and arranges loans. Pierce owns 80 percent of the new company while Roddy owns 20 percent.
1998: Partners sign a deal with broker David Fitzgerald to finance a golf course and 1,000 luxury homes on the property.
1999-2000: Fitzgerald sells $35 million in municipal bonds to finance the project. Investors will be repaid with proceeds of houses.
2000: Contra Costa County shrinks the urban limit line, which places a large portion of the ranch off-limits to housing.
March 2001: Officials revoke Fitzgerald's securities and broker licenses.
April 2001: Ranch defaults on bond payments.
July 2002: Ranch files for bankruptcy.
August 2003: At the request of creditors, a judge appoints a trustee to take over Roddy Ranch.
May 3, 2004: Richland Communities offers $31 million for the ranch in a courtroom auction.
June 30, 2004: Richland fails to close escrow for undisclosed reasons.
Jan. 2005: A consortium of owners -- Black Mountain Development of Pleasanton, Castle Companies of San Ramon and Pacific Coast Capital Partners of Sacramento -- forms Roddy Ranch PBC and buys the property out of bankruptcy.
November 2005: Antioch voters approve Measure K, which sets the city's urban limit line to include Roddy Ranch.
November 2006: Roddy Ranch was annexed into Antioch by county land formation commission, allowing for the use of city services such as police, fire, sewer and water.
January 2009: Antioch releases draft environmental impact report.
July 2009: Ownership group Roddy Ranch PBC defaults on property.
Jan. 2010: Roddy Ranch property purchased by GKK Roddy Ranch OwnerLP at a trustee sale.
Aug. 2012: Antioch releases recirculated draft environmental impact review.