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Saturday, February 16 , 2019, 12:02 pm | A Few Clouds 58º


Flaw Leads to Delay For Lompoc Motorsports EIR Certification

City Council pospones action on environmental document on controversial project proposed near Lompoc Airport

The Lompoc City Council late Tuesday night postponed certifying the environmental document for a proposed motorsports park near the city’s airport. Click to view larger
The Lompoc City Council late Tuesday night postponed certifying the environmental document for a proposed motorsports park near the city’s airport. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

A technical flaw pointed out by a speaker Tuesday night forced the Lompoc City Council to postpone certifying the environmental document for a proposed motorsports park

After hearing from multiple speakers for and against the project proposed for Lompoc Airport land, the council voted 5-0 to recirculate the environmental document. 

An eleventh-hour discovery of a potential significant impact not analyzed in the EIR means a section of the document needs to be recirculated for public comments, officials said more than three hours into Tuesday’s meeting.

“As your legal counsel, I would highly recommend you not certify the EIR,” City Attorney Joe Pannone told the council.

Released in late June, the draft EIR prepared by Meridian Consultants of Westlake Village identifies the environmental impacts of the planned activities at the proposed motorsports park and cites ways to minimize or mitigate significant adverse impacts.

The park proposed by a subcommittee of the Lompoc Valley Park, Recreation& Pool Foundation, calls for the phased development of off-highway vehicle tracks, pit areas, motocross arenas, grandstands, a 1/8-mile drag strip, and a vehicle storage structure.

The draft EIR generated 75 comment letters, a Meridian representative said. 

Dozens of comments — both in support and opposition of the EIR and project overall— also were made during Tuesday night’s meeting. 

“This EIR is inadequate and incomplete,” said Jenelle Osborne, a member of the Lompoc Economic Development Committee and a candidate for City Council.

Chris Hampson from Meridian Consultants talks to the Lompoc City Council about the environmental impact report for the proposed motorsports park. Click to view larger
Chris Hampson from Meridian Consultants talks to the Lompoc City Council about the environmental impact report for the proposed motorsports park. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

She contended the EIR misinterpreted the Lompoc General Plan Noise Element, leading to a document that does not accurately reflect noise impacts from the proposed park or potential mitigation measures. 

After public comment, Meridian representatives said Osborne’s comment highlighted a potential lack of compliance with the General Plan that would require the draft EIR to be recirculated under the California Environmental Quality Act rules.

"Our analysis demonstrated, as it is, that the noise leaving the site is greater than 60 (decibels) which would exceed the city's noise ordinance," said Joe Gibson, Meridian partner and practice group leader. "In doing so, we should have called that a significant impact. We did not call that a significant impact."

Instead the EIR labeled noise a less-than-significant impact because of measurements taken at the "sensitive receptor site," Gibson said.

The project on the 38-acre site near the Santa Ynez River would create a significant and unavoidable impact to air quality, the EIR noted as the lone serious concern initially cited by the study.

Specifically, the document contends the project would exceed Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District thresholds for volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides.

Several significant impacts also were identified as being mitigated to less than significant levels, the report noted. Those include biological resources, greenhouse gas emission, hazards and hazardous waste, public services, traffic and circulation.

In addition to the proposed project, the EIR analyzed alternatives including creating an off-highway vehicle facility only or a drag strip facility only.

Staff and the consultant also noted the council’s certification of the environmental report does not obligate the city to approve the project. 

Earlier in the meeting, the City Council postponed action on a request for another $20,000 for Meridian Consultants for additional costs related to the preparing the environmental document.

A representative of Meridian said the original estimate did not account for controversy sparked by the project. While originally expecting a smaller document, the final project report exceeds 500 pages.

It’s not known whether the recirculation of the EIR will increase consultant’s costs above the $20,000.

Pannone said it’s doubtful if the document can be recirculated and certified before the end-of-the-year deadline tied to a state grant that is providing reimbursement for the city's costs.

“If we can’t, we need to have a discussion with the state to see whether or not they will extend the deadline for the phase one potion which is the CEQA review,” Pannone said. 

Certification of the EIR is one small step in the approval process since the project needs to go through a National Environmental Policy Act review plus the city must work with the Federal Aviation Administration to update its Airport Layout Plan.

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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