120616 Lompoc Council 02

Lompoc City Councilmen Jim Mosby, from left, Dirk Starbuck and Mayor Bob Lingl discuss the Environmental Impact Report for the proposed Motorsports Park during Tuesday night's City Council meeting.

The Lompoc City Council voted to certify a necessary environmental document related to the proposed Lompoc Valley Motorsports Park project on Tuesday night, a little more than a month after holding off on doing so.

Certification of the project’s Environmental Impact Report, or EIR, was approved with a 3-2 vote. Mayor Bob Lingl and outgoing Councilman DeWayne Holmdahl, who was in his final meeting with the council, voted against certifying the document.

The certification came after City Attorney Joseph Pannone advised the council on Nov. 1 to hold off on voting after resident Jenelle Osborne — who was slated to be sworn in as a City Council member later Tuesday night — raised an issue with the sound studies conducted in the document.

It was suggested at that Nov. 1 meeting that the city may need to address the sound study issue and recirculate the EIR. After further review, Pannone said Tuesday that those suggestions were premature.

“Had we known what we know today, I wouldn’t have recommended that you recirculate the EIR for public review,” Pannone said.

“Now I believe you do have the legal foundation and support to certify the EIR if you want to,” he added.

The issue centered on a possible conflict between the EIR and the city’s 2030 General Plan. City staff, which recommended certifying the EIR, noted in its report that there was no such conflict.

“The Draft EIR’s conclusions regarding noise impacts are consistent with the policies and implementation measures identified in the General Plan to assess and consider the potential impacts to residents and sensitive receptors from the proposed project,” read a portion of the staff report. “As identified in the Draft EIR, no significant impact will result to existing sensitive receptors from the proposed project, if approved, constructed and operated as described in the Draft EIR.”

More than a dozen residents weighed in, both positively and negatively, on the issue and/or the project itself.

One member of the public even used his allotted three minutes to read an excerpt from the children's story "Chicken Little" in an effort to stress to naysayers of the project that the sky wasn't falling.

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In related council discussion of the controversial project, Wiemiller noted that the city has received about $210,000 in reimbursements from the State Parks Department from a nearly $1 million grant the city was awarded for the project in 2013.

When asked directly whether noncertification could put future reimbursements in jeopardy, Wiemiller said that it “raises a risk.” Further, after a question from Lingl, Wiemiller said it was “possible” that the city may have to pay back the reimbursements it has already received if it failed to certify the EIR.

Pannone interjected to point out that those reasons should not be considered when deciding whether to certify the document.

While certification of the EIR does not necessarily mean that the project will be completed, it is a necessary step for the park to continue. Certification of the EIR is an acknowledgment that the document “adequately discusses the potential physical impacts that could result from approval and installation of the Motorsports Park,” according to city staff.

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

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