The Lompoc City Council held off on deciding on a couple of major milestones for the proposed Lompoc Valley Motorsports Park on Tuesday night, raising some concerns about the park’s viability.
The council was tasked at Tuesday’s meeting with deciding on whether to approve an additional $20,000 to Meridian Consultants for its work related to the project’s Environmental Impact Report, or EIR, and also whether to certify the final version of the EIR.
The council ultimately chose to hold off on voting on the additional funding for Meridian until the state parks department confirms whether or not those funds would be eligible for reimbursement from a nearly $1 million state grant awarded to the city for the project.
Later, after a public hearing related to the EIR, representatives of Meridian acknowledged that an issue within the EIR that was raised by a resident at Tuesday's meeting was significant in nature and that the EIR should be re-circulated, as per the terms of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
City Attorney Joseph Pannone agreed with that assessment and advised the council to not certify the document at Tuesday’s meeting, a recommendation that was followed by the council, which voted 5-0 to refrain from certification at that time.
The issue at hand was raised by Jenelle Osborne, who was one of 26 speakers during the hour-plus long public hearing. Osborne, who is running for a City Council seat in this month’s election, pointed to a flaw in the location of receptors on property lines for noise studies.
Osborne called the EIR “inadequate and incomplete” and urged the council to not move forward with certification.
Fifteen other speakers raised concerns with the EIR, many of them complaining that its analysis regarding noise, which was determined to be a “less than significant impact,” was either incomplete, incorrect, misleading, or some combination of all three.
“This is a seriously flawed EIR for a seriously flawed project,” said former Lompoc Mayor Joyce Howerton, who said she was representing the Lompoc Valley Community Coalition.
Other speakers cited their own data and research that reached significantly different conclusions regarding noise, and suggested that Meridian’s studies were not performed correctly.
Representatives of Meridian later said in response to those accusations that they reviewed some of the data mentioned, but determined that data wasn’t relevant to this particular project.
Some of the speakers who supported the findings of the EIR, and the continuation of the project, noted that the project’s organizing committee performed its own sound studies on Oct. 1 and that the results of those tests were in line with the determinations in the EIR.
The delay in certification could be problematic for the project. Pannone noted in his recommendation that the city probably won’t be able to get the EIR re-circulated before Dec. 31, which would require the city to reach out to the state to try to get an extension on the Phase 1 deadline for the project.
The likelihood of that extension being granted was not discussed.
The city is still waiting to hear back from the state on whether the $20,000 requested by Meridian can be used as part of the grant.
Meridian Consultants, which began work on the environmental process in October 2015, requested the amendment to its agreement with the city on Oct. 18 to include the additional funds, which would bring the total paid to Meridian to $319,839, according to city staff.
The costs were incurred, according to Meridian, due to additional work with the FAA regarding the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and Airport Layout Plan. A representative of Meridian said Tuesday that the firm is “absorbing” $10,000 to $15,000 in overhead costs due to the unexpected additional work.
If the funding is approved by the council but then found to not be eligible for reimbursement from the state, the city would be responsible for the charges. However, under the terms of a memorandum of understanding between the city and the Lompoc Valley Parks, Recreation and Pool Foundation (LVPRPF), which is the project’s organizing group, the city would be reimbursed by the LVPRPF.