FMW denied its fairgrounds appeal

The California Court of Appeal rejected a Newport Beach developer's request on Wednesday to rehear its case for why the sale of the Orange County Fairgrounds should proceed.

A three-judge panel dismissed Facilities Management West's claims that by plugging two holes perceived by the court in the current sale process, the state should be able to carry out the transaction. The court said those arguments were not made before, so they cannot be made now.

"We still feel that these flaws that the court found, we disagree that the [state] shouldn't be allowed to cure them," said FMW attorney Thomas Gibbs. "We're disappointed and disagree with the opinion, but they are the court and we respect the court."

FMW's only remaining option is to petition the state Supreme Court. Company officials said they are considering the option.

In the meantime, Gov. Jerry Brown has yet to publicly state an opinion about selling the 150-acre property in Costa Mesa. A law that would enable the fairgrounds and the state to share profits is working its way through Sacramento as an alternative, should the property remain in public hands.

There were two flaws — one "fatal," as the court saw it — that killed the state Department of General Services' (DGS) deal with FMW.

First, and most significant, DGS never received an outside appraisal for the fairgrounds property, instead relying on the market to determine its price through public bidding. Second, there was no formal appeal process for losing bidders to argue their case.

In both instances, FMW argued DGS could just open up a process for appeals now and then get an appraisal on the property.

If the state seeks to resell the fairgrounds, DGS would have to start again at square one, the court ruled in a previous opinion.

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