EXCLUSIVE: Mysterious firm purchases more land near Travis AFB, communication facility: officials

Stephanie Sierra Image
Saturday, August 26, 2023

BREAKING NEWS UPDATE: Sources tell the ABC7 News I-Team that a group of Silicon Valley investors are behind the land purchases around Travis AFB. Their plan? To build a new city. GO HERE for the latest on this developing story.

The previous report can be found below.

The mysterious saga of a nearly $1 billion worth of land acquisition in Solano County encroaching Travis Air Force Base has entered a new chapter.

Local and federal officials are concerned that Flannery Associates, the investment firm behind the purchases, has acquired nearly all the available land immediately surrounding Travis Air Force Base. Furthermore, the ABC7 News I-Team has learned Flannery has purchased specific plots of land near a critical communication squadron that is privy to sensitive information tied to U.S. National Security.

This comes as a survey was sent out to residents this week prompting more questions from local officials as to what may happen with more than 55,000 acres of dry farmland that's been acquired since 2018.

RELATED: 'Mystery company' buys $800M worth of land near Travis AFB, raising concerns about national security

"We're very, very concerned about this." A Solano County congressman is sounding the alarm about a mystery company that has bought $800 million of land near Travis AFB.

"So the entire base is encircled now," said Catherine Moy, the mayor of Fairfield. "So there's no part that isn't touched by Flannery."

County maps are still in the process of being updates, but the rendering below show the latest acquisitions.

"Have you seen anything like this in your career?" ABC7's Stephanie Sierra asked.

"No, I definitely haven't," said Glenn Zook, Solano County's Assessor. "This is a first for me."

Zook says Flannery's acquisitions started slow in 2018 but significantly ramped up over the past two years.

"We see a lot of investors. There's usually a target, a plan, but there doesn't seem to be that in this case, other than targeting the specific area, which happens to be around the Air Force Base," said Zook.

Public records obtained by the I-Team show Flannery has purchased land close to the 60th Communication Squadron that's housed on the base. According to Travis, this squadron defends, operates, and controls critical communication and network infrastructure for 58 military aircraft - including some of the largest in the world used for rapid delivery of troops.

There's a reason Travis is known as the Gateway to the Pacific. The U.S. Air Force says it stands ready to provide refueling, cargo and medical evacuation support to our military personnel and allies worldwide.

"And that could be a very dangerous thing to have any communications intercepted," Moy said. "We're obviously connected to other bases that have fighter jets that will be here in minutes to help protect if there's some kind of an issue. But again, any kind of those communications, the most high security communications that happen at the Pentagon, they also happen at Travis. Now, not all bases have that."

RELATED: 'Mysterious' $800M land purchase near Travis AFB prompts legislation, concern over foreign threat

Moy says this is where highly sensitive communication occurs about national security, including the President's location at any point in time. She says the squadron has Sensitive Compartmented Information Facilities or SCIFs -- which are secure rooms or data centers that guard against electronic surveillance.

The I-Team asked Flannery Associates about their acquisitions reportedly made near a communication tower and whether or not that was a coincidence. Michael Leiter, the lead attorney representing the firm is known nationally to represent clients involving U.S. national security and cybersecurity investigations.

Leiter did not respond to our emails, but told the I-Team on the phone Flannery has no comment.

"It just worries me," said Moy.

It's the fear of the unknown. And another chapter of the mystery unfolds with the distribution of an "opinion-insight" survey sent to Solano County residents.

Sierra: "What is your general thoughts about this survey?"

Mayor Moy: "This survey is interesting and that we're getting a look at what might be in the heads of whoever Flannery is, but I'm not sure if it is a smokescreen or if it is actually a legitimate poll. It very much seems like a push poll in politics in which they're making people feel happy about what might be there. They use all the buzz words, the right things, you know, renewable energy, all of those things."

According to Moy, constituents who were sent the survey were asked dozens of questions ranging from political preferences to potential ballot initiatives. One of which hinted at plans to develop a new city in the eastern part of Solano County with tens of thousands of new homes, a large solar energy farm, orchards with more than one million new trees and over 10,000 acres of new parks and open space. Moy says the survey question estimated it would generate thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue for the county within the first 10 years.

RELATED: Nearly $1B 'mystery' land purchase near Travis AFB shows lack of federal transparency, officials say

The questions that followed asked things like, "Would you vote yes or no on the initiative?" "Which way do you lean?" "If it was built, would it positively or negatively impact you? Or not have much impact either way?"

Mayor Moy says she doesn't think any of the proposed plans are realistic, specifically the plans to build tens of thousands of homes in the eastern part of the county.

"It's an area that is known for its drought conditions. It makes zero sense. There's no mass transit. It does not have fresh water. There is some water, but not enough for tens of thousands of homes," Moy said. "You'd have to dig wells or convince Fairfield to give water and that would be a big fat no from us."

"So what makes you think Flannery is behind this survey?" Sierra asked.

"Flannery or somebody pretending to be is and the reason why I believe that is that when you talk about that amount of land. Flannery is the largest landholder in Solano County. So it has to be them or somebody pretending to be them," said Moy.

"When you say pretend, do you have any reason to suggest that someone is trying to impersonate Flannery?" Sierra asked.

"I mean, I think that it could be a kind of diversion tactic," Moy said.

According to a transcription, the second section of the survey listed names of different people and asked participants to indicate their opinion of them - ranging from "very favorable" to "very unfavorable." "Flannery associates" was listed as one of five options next to "Joe Biden," "Donald Trump," "Mike Thompson" and "John Garamendi."

"Yeah, I know that's what I saw as well," said Ronald Kott, the mayor of Rio Vista. "And, gosh, it makes it suggest that this is from flattering that they're searching for this thing. That it's their survey."

Ronald Kott is the mayor of neighboring town Rio Vista. He says he was never directly sent the survey but received a copy from numerous constituents.

"And then when you start reading the questions, that even reinforces that more. But there's really nothing on the survey that shows this is from Flannery or it's an official survey from them soliciting opinion. And I don't know how many people actually got the original survey. I don't think there were that many."

The I-Team asked Flannery Associates if the firm is any way connected with the creation or distribution of this survey. We were told "No comment."

"I believe that if they wanted to build a city, the smart thing would be to not only talk to local officials, but staff people here that look at land use," said Moy.

Solano County has told the I-Team Flannery has not pulled any permits since acquiring land in 2018 to signal any future development or change of land use.

No permits. No known plan. And as Mayor Moy put it, some of these questions ask about plans that aren't feasible.

For example, she says eastern Solano County doesn't have the infrastructure to accommodate a city.

"The roads out there are already dangerous. Highway 12 is the highway that goes through there out to Highway 99 and Highway 5. it's called Blood Alley for a reason," said Moy. "There's no way that tens of thousands of homes could be supported by that."

Mayor Kott raised concerns about traffic congestion.

"They didn't address transportation, which is a major problem. It's a problem for us right now with Highway 12 and Highway 80 that's always been congested," said Kott. "So when you're talking about adding another 150,000 people or so, I don't know how that's going to get addressed."

The survey also asked questions about whether residents would be more likely to "support" or "not support" these projects based on things like: how quickly it's built, if the buildings would be five stories or less, if it would include a performing arts center, or if millions of new trees and a new oak forest would be planted." While we don't know for sure who is behind the survey, emails obtained by the I-Team show Flannery has already expressed interest in growing olive orchards on some of the parcels near the base.

Mayor Moy says the survey also asked about the potential for a large solar energy farm which would reduce energy bills for Solano County residents by 10 percent and would generate tens of millions of dollars in tax revenue.

"What are your thoughts on the legitimacy of those plans?" Sierra asked.

"What I do know is that the wind farms is a no go and the reason for that is the wind farms themselves already block or interfere with Travis's radar systems. I've seen it firsthand, and it's just a black screen out where all those are...we can't see things coming in," Moy said. "Travis Air Force Base would be crippled if more wind farms were built around it."

Moy says the only question she has that may hint to a long-term plan for these acquisitions is linked to a bonanza of natural gas believed to be along both sides of Highway 12 between Rio Vista and Fairfield.

"A large broker in this area has told me that most of the natural gas has been used from that area. There are a lot of natural gas wells out there. But he said what hasn't been tapped in there is very, very deep," said Moy. "He described it like a water balloon, way deep underneath there in the formations where there's more natural gas."

"But even still, this certainly does not address why they bought all their property next door to Travis," Mayor Kott said. "So that still will always be a concern until they step up and say why."

Both Mayors are concerned about any potential impact to Travis.

"Unless they are able to shut down Travis Air Force Base. And then what you're talking about is if you have enough money to bring in an airport and force Travis Air Force Base to close, which would be devastating to our community," said Mayor Moy.

"Do you have a reason to believe that's where this is headed?" Sierra asked.

"I pray not. I pray that this is not actions to cripple our national security. But I have that question. I have that fear."

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