120517 Lompoc council

Will Schuyler, a co-chair of the Lompoc Valley Motorsports Park project’s organizing committee, speaks to the Lompoc City Council on Tuesday night as fellow project leaders John Linn, left, and Carl Creel look on.

The Lompoc City Council adopted a map outlining its new voting districts as it moved forward with its transition to district-based elections during Tuesday night’s meeting, at which the group also voted to amend the city’s agreement with the embattled and currently stalled Motorsports Park Project.

Those two decisions took up the much of the first three hours of the meeting, which included a nearly packed audience and more than an hour of public comment.

Although the entire meeting extended past four hours, the council made quick work in settling on a new district map.

Just two weeks after whittling the number of potential maps down to three, the council voted 3-2 — Mayor Bob Lingl and Councilwoman Jenelle Osborne gave the votes of dissent — to adopt Map 105, which seemed to the popular choice among the speakers at the meeting, although perhaps begrudgingly.

Six citizens offered comment during the district-based election public hearing, which was the fifth since the city began the process on Sept. 5. Of those speakers, five expressed disappointment either in the overall transition or the fact that the council went against popular opinion and eliminated Map 101 at its Nov. 21 meeting, but four of them still advocated for Map 105. One of those five speakers, however, said she didn’t find any of the remaining maps to be acceptable.

Just one speaker offered support for Map 105 with no criticism included. He said he was in favor of the map for the sake of simplicity and its easily identifiable borders.

Lingl said he voted against adopting Map 105 because he felt like the council went against the will of the public by previously eliminating Map 101, which had received by far the most support of any of the submitted maps since the process began. Osborne, who also voted against Map 105 on Tuesday, had shared a similar opinion on Nov. 21 when Map 101 was first excluded, along with four others, due to the fact that it would forcibly break up the current council makeup.

Along with adopting Map 105, which doesn’t include any district with two or more current council members, the council also voted unanimously to adopt a first reading of an ordinance that outlines its transition to district-based elections.

The group also voted 4-1, with Osborne voting no, to have Districts 2 and 3 be up for election in 2018 and Districts 1 and 4 up in 2020. Osborne had previously moved for all four seats to be up for grabs next year — she related it to quickly ripping off a Band Aid — with two of them for four years and the other two, which would be at midterm, up for the final two years of the current terms. That proposal was voted down 3-2, only getting support from Lingl.

All of the proposed maps are available to view at www.DrawLompoc.org.

Following a much longer discussion, the council voted unanimously to terminate its current Memorandum of Understanding, or MOU, and perhaps enter into a new agreement with the Lompoc Valley Parks, Recreation and Pool Foundation (LVPRPF), which encompasses the organizing committee of the Lompoc Valley Motorsports Park Project.

The MOU was initially signed on March 4, 2014, for the project, which is still being planned for property at the Lompoc Airport. In the staff report signed by City Manager Patrick Wiemiller, the city argued that “the MOU was based upon funding and project timelines that are no longer valid.”

The project, which has faced waves of support and opposition from many community members over the past few years, is currently at a standstill due to land use disagreements between the project organizers and the owner of Skydive Santa Barbara, which operates out of the Lompoc Airport. The council hadn't discussed the project at length since January.

The Federal Aviation Administration has indicated that it will not approve an Airport Master Plan that is needed by the Motorsports Park Project until that dispute is resolved, according to the city’s staff report.

“In the aftermath of that FAA determination, the Foundation contacted staff requesting the MOU not be terminated, but rather, the Foundation be afforded the opportunity to work on changes of designs and plans for the Motorsports Park that would conform with the FAA’s determination,” read the staff report.

“The Foundation indicated a preference to negotiate amendments to the existing MOU once its designs were updated, rather than having the MOU terminated and possibly renegotiating a new MOU from scratch," it continued. "Many months have passed, and while the Foundation has indicated it has been making continuing efforts to bring forward a new plan, to date the Foundation has not done so. It is now timely for staff to hear how the City Council would like to proceed.”

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Wiemiller, whose resignation will become effective Jan. 5, said Tuesday that he brought the issue to the council now in an effort to tie up loose ends before his departure. He said he felt that having the discussion before his exit was prudent since he said he had spent so much time working on the project.

All 22 of the public speakers on the issue were in favor of keeping the project going and the MOU alive. The first five of those speakers, all of them project leaders, gave a scripted presentation to the council at three minutes per person, which was necessary since Lingl had previously denied them a 15-minute time slot to present. (Lingl said later in the meeting that he denied the request due to an outburst at a meeting last year by project chairman Carl Creel that Lingl said he found to be disrespectful.)

The project leaders advocated for keeping the MOU in place while they continue to work out some of the issues with the project. Former Mayor John Linn, who is head of the LVPRPF and has been a spokesperson for the project, said that he believed changes could be made to the project to make it viable.

“From our perspective, we don’t think that you canceling the MOU is anything that we want because we’re concerned we’ll never get another one,” said Linn, who added that the committee would be glad to renegotiate.

Ultimately, the council voted to terminate the MOU, return nearly $7,700 to the LVPRPF that the city is currently holding, and to direct city staff to negotiate another MOU with the committee members with a stipulation that city staff return in 90 days to report progress.

The Council’s Dec. 19 meeting is the final gathering scheduled before Wiemiller’s departure. It was announced at the start of Tuesday’s meeting that the council has approved Teresa Gallavan, the current assistant city manager, to serve as interim city manager until a new manager is hired. The council announced on Nov. 21 that it will conduct a nationwide search for its next city manager.

Wiemiller announced Nov. 9 that he was resigning and that he had accepted a position as assistant city manager in Santa Maria.

Willis Jacobson covers the city of Lompoc for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @WJacobsonLR.

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