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City Council OKs Sale of Old Lompoc Theatre Building

A mundane action Tuesday night by the City Council meant a big milestone for efforts to restore the downtown Lompoc Theatre building.

With almost no comment, the City Council agreed in a 4 to 0 vote to sell the deteriorating building in the 100 block of North H Street to the nonprofit Lompoc Theatre Project. Councilman Dirk Starbuck abstained since he owns nearby property.

Before the vote, Mark HerrierLompoc Theatre Project president, noted that in the past 15 years the theater has been involved in “more drama and more plot twists and more cast of characters than any Shakespearean play or any Wagnerian opera.

“And, today, finally, you have a chance to give that happy ending,” said Herrier, who grew up in Lompoc and appeared in the 1980s Porky’s series of films. 

The council action resolves more than three years of wrangling over ownership and liens on the building as the city agreed to sell its $700,000 deed of trust to the nonprofit organization for $1.

The Lompoc Theatre has been ensnared in a legal web stemming from the collapse of the nonprofit Lompoc Housing & Community Development Corporation (LHCDC) and complicated by the state’s elimination of redevelopment agencies.

The board handling oversight of Lompoc’s redevelopment agency approved the sale of the deed in January. 

But another hurdle arose with the discovery LHCDC had been suspended by the State of California and the IRS for failure to file tax forms for several years. The suspensions meant the defunct LHCDC could not legally conduct any business and stretched out the transfer of the structure months beyond initial estimates.

Other potential hurdles remain. The sale means the Lompoc Theatre Project now can proceed with an uncontested foreclosure on the theater’s current owner LHCDC. 

The foreclosure process is expected to take about 90 days, according to Herrier.

Once the foreclosure is done, the Theatre Project will own the building and adjacent parking lot outright without any LHCDC debts on the property after back property taxes are paid. 

An additional deed on the property, owned by the City of Lompoc for a $225,000 loan given to LHCDC in 2006, reportedly will be extinguished through the foreclosure process.

The Theatre Project has agreed to pay LHCDC’s unpaid property taxes going back to 2012, an amount Herrier estimated would be about $60,000. 

However, the nonprofit organization is appealing the amount of overdue property taxes because it believes the appraised value of the theater and adjacent parking lot should be lowered, Theatre Project officials said.

A recent appraisal put the property value at negative $100,000.

Herrier noted the council’s meeting fell on his birthday. 

“It’s probably a little late for you to get me a birthday card, but it’s not too late for you to give me a birthday present. And more importantly give a present to a very dedicated board of directors and more important than that, to the citizens of this town who have waited for so many years for someone to set this theatre free.”

Last year, the Lompoc Theatre Project unveiled plans for a $6 million renovation and restoration project. 

"We look forward to working with the community members who have indicated a willingness to support us financially once we have the keys. And when that happens, when they are finally in our hands, we will invite the whole town and have a celebration in a spirit worthy of this victory,” Herrier said.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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