The Lompoc City Council will have the opportunity Tuesday night to deliver what could be the final death blow to the long-embattled Lompoc Valley Motorsports Park project.
The council will have a packed agenda for its next regular meeting, scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. at Lompoc City Hall. Among the issues up for discussion and possible action are continued budget deliberations; a public hearing related to the Bailey Avenue corridor annexation; the city’s complaint-based code enforcement policy; and the contentious Motorsports Park project, which has been in a state of limbo since late last year.
City staff is recommending that the council authorize a formal notice of termination for the Memorandum of Understanding that was agreed upon by the city and the Lompoc Valley Parks, Recreation, and Pool Foundation for the proposed Motorsports Park. Following that termination, if approved, the city will return $7,656 of unused funds to the foundation.
The termination of the memorandum would effectively kill the project as it is currently proposed.
The Motorsports Park proposal has been in development since 2012. The park was planned for construction on a 38-acre plot of land owned by the city on the northern edge of the Lompoc Airport.
The project has received significant support from members of the community over the past five years, but it has also been the target of a great deal of criticism from residents who have voiced concerns over noise and environmental hazards, among others. Several residents over the past two years have even threatened the city with potential lawsuits if the park were ever built.
Still, the project endured, despite running into several hurdles.
The largest of those hurdles, which the project’s organizing committee has appeared unable to clear, has been a land dispute at the Lompoc Airport with Skydive Santa Barbara, a longtime airport tenant.
According to Lompoc city staff, the motorsports project, as proposed, cannot proceed based upon the Federal Aviation Administration’s determination that “airport-related uses take precedence over any other activity on airport property. Based on that, the FAA was unwilling to process the required National Environmental Policy Act documents necessary to amend the Airport Layout Plan.”
In addition to that issue, the project also faced recent financial trouble.
In 2013, the city was awarded a nearly $1 million grant from the State Parks Department to aid in the completion of the project. The grant expired at the end of 2016, however, and the oft-stalled project had only utilized about $237,000 of those funds, all of it on environmental work, as last year came to a close.
The city had the option of choosing to apply for another state grant to continue the project, but the council voted 3-2 on Jan. 17 to decline that option. Mayor Bob Lingl and council members Jenelle Osborne and Victor Vega voted in support of having the city not seek out any further grants, and that was the last time the park was discussed at a council meeting.
According to the staff report included with Tuesday’s agenda, the city has spent about $405,000 on the project. Those costs include nearly $283,000 in contracts with Meridian Consultants, which prepared the Environmental Impact Report for the project, almost $67,000 in contracts with other third-party firms, about $52,000 in city staff costs and another $3,300 in costs related to things like mailings, notices and copy charges.
The city reports that it has received a little more than $176,000 from the Lompoc Valley Parks, Recreation and Pool Foundation to offset the city's costs. Those payments, terms of which were outlined in the Memorandum of Understanding, began in October 2014 and continued through December 2016.
Additionally, the city reports that it has received a little more than $237,000 in reimbursements from the state grant. Those reimbursements were paid out following three separate requests on Oct. 11 and Dec. 2, 2016, and then finally on Jan. 30, 2017.
Those payments have left the city with the $7,656 surplus that it plans to return to the Lompoc Valley Parks, Recreation and Pool Foundation if the council terminates the memorandum between the parties.
While ending the memorandum would almost certainly stop the project in its current incarnation, it does not necessarily kill the idea of Lompoc having a motorsports park.
“Termination of the (memorandum) will close the proposed project’s file at this time,” read a portion of the city staff report. “That would not preclude (Lompoc Valley Parks, Recreation and Pool Foundation) from approaching the city with a reduced-scale project in the future to alleviate FAA concerns regarding possible conflicts with airport-related uses or proposing a motorsports project for some other area of the city or county of Santa Barbara. Staff would anticipate the cost of processing any future project would be funded fully by (the foundation).”
In other scheduled action Tuesday, the council will continue to deliberate over the proposed 2017-19 biennial draft budget. The governing body was presented with a new set of proposals from City Manager Patrick Wiemiller on July 12 and by Tuesday will have had six days to dig into the documents, which propose several cuts, including eliminating city support of private events and routine closures of City Hall.
The council will also have a chance to review the city’s current complaint-based code enforcement policy, which was brought up for council consideration at the request of Councilman Jim Mosby. One of the issues expected to be discussed is the city’s policy to only accept signed complaints and not those from residents who wish to remain anonymous.
“Requiring a signed complaint to initiate a code enforcement action requires the complainant to consider their actions,” read a portion of the related city staff report. “It reduces the number of retaliatory complaints and limits the feeling in the community that staff is singling people or properties out.”