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Tustin mayor: No taxpayer money for an Angel stadium

Arte Moreno did not send an emissary. The Angels owner met with Tustin officials himself last week, in search of a stadium deal and frustrated by what he perceives as stalled negotiations with the city of Anaheim.

Tustin officials still aren’t quite sure what to make of it. They’re happy to talk with him, but the mayor is not sure whether Moreno is more interested in coming to Tustin or in putting pressure on Anaheim.

“It could be a leveraging opportunity,” Tustin Mayor Al Murray said Tuesday night.

Murray was clear on one thing: Tustin would not be using taxpayer funds to build the Angels a ballpark.

“I don’t think, in our community, that would be acceptable,” Murray said.

Angels spokeswoman Marie Garvey said Tuesday that the Angels anticipate “a public-private partnership,” whether in Anaheim or elsewhere.

“We’re not asking for handouts anywhere,” she said.

In September, the Anaheim City Council approved the framework of a deal in which Moreno would pay $150 million to renovate Angel Stadium in exchange for development rights to the adjacent land at $1 per year.  Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait has fought the deal ever since, arguing that the land is too valuable to lease at that rate without sharing in any development profits.

The Anaheim City Council earlier this month approved the hiring of an appraiser to value the land under two scenarios: the Angels stay or the Angels go.

“They’re looking at all their options, with or without us,” Garvey said, “so we have to do the same.”

Tustin City Manager Jeffrey Parker said Moreno had expressed particular interest in the northeast corner of the property formerly occupied by the Marine Corps air station. That area is across the street from the Tustin Metrolink station and adjacent to the 5 Freeway and Highway 261, the latter a toll road directly to the Inland Empire. The site also is accessible via Highway 55 and the 405 Freeway.

“Their focus was on the transportation element,” Parker said.

On Tuesday, the Tustin City Council approved the sale of 78 acres of land elsewhere on the closed military base for $56 million, plus another $17 million in infrastructure costs, to a housing developer. Infrastructure costs for sports facilities generally are borne by the city or other public authority.

Parker said it would be premature to discuss whether the Tustin City Council would consider including no-cost or low-cost land in a stadium deal, but he said one possibility could be to include a ballpark site in a larger development deal.

“It certainly is clear they want to partner with a community and a developer,” Parker said, “whether that developer is them, or with another developer.”

Murray categorized the Angels discussions as in their “infancy.” Parker said the city would wait to hear back from Moreno.

Moreno last week said talks with Anaheim were “at a stalemate.” Garvey said Tuesday the team had not made “any significant progress” since the deal framework was approved five months ago.

“The city of Anaheim has and will continue negotiating in good faith with Angels Baseball to keep the team playing in Anaheim for many years to come,” the city said in a statement Tuesday. “Early on, the city and the team established mutual goals, the first of which is to keep the Angels in Anaheim.  We will continue to meet with the team in order to accomplish that goal.”

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