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Sunday, January 20 , 2019, 8:17 pm | A Few Clouds 60º


Lompoc Council Candidates Forum Covers Assorted Topics

Races pit current and former mayor, two council members against challenger for two seats

Two candidates for mayor and three candidates for City Council participated in a forum Thursday in Lompoc. Click to view larger
Two candidates for mayor and three candidates for City Council participated in a forum Thursday in Lompoc. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

Housing, jobs, business climate and the future of Lompoc were among topics discussed Thursday night during a forum by the five people seeking seats on the City Council.

During the two-hour event, sponsored by the Lompoc Valley Chamber of Commerce, the candidates gave their opinions on wide-ranging topics.

More than 75 people attended the event held in Council Chambers. 

Mayor Bob Lingl and former mayor John Linn participated in the forum, along with three people — incumbent DeWayne Holmdahl, appointed incumbent Jim Mosby and challenger Jenelle Osborne — seeking two council seats. 

The top vote-getters will be the winners in the Nov. 8 election, with the mayoral term lasting two years and the council terms spanning four years.

While a separate race will pick mayor, the position, beyond wielding the gavel at meetings, has essentially the same duties and powers as the remaining four council members. 

One question centered on Lompoc’s housing issues, with Osborne contending the city is under-served in both executive-level and multi-family housing.

“We have built out as much as possible, and the only building that has been occurring is outside the city limits. That’s not helpful to us,” Osborne said.

Homes have been approved for development in the city, but have not moved forward, the Economic Development Committee member said.

“You have to ask why. One of those reasons may be the fact we’re discussing putting a motorsports park in right below where 600 homes might be built,” she said, adding that a developer may think twice about investing in homes due concerns about whether they would sell.

Mosby said the city needs to update its General Plan to look at sustainable community development, noting the city’s population actually dropped and slowly rose more recently, while Santa Maria experienced steady growth.

“We need to bring those commuters back that leave every day to go to work, and bring jobs back here locally,” Mosby said, claiming the approved housing hasn’t been built because it’s not profitable. 

He also said the city needs to annex the area known as the Bailey Avenue Corridor, a long disputed proposal that divided the city. 

Lingl said one reason for the stalled housing project is the previous council granted multi-year extensions for developers who moved on to their projects in other communities. 

“We have to start saying to these developers, "'No. We approved it. We’ve given you one extension. We’re not going to give you more. Build it now,’” Lingl said.

He also contended the city does not need to annex property west of the city limits, calling it “prime agricultural land.

”That land over there produces more crops per acre than any place else in the United States,” Lingl said. “We can build, but not west of town.”

Holmdahl, a longtime local lawmaker, called on the city to hold a workshop with developers about their needs. He also noted Santa Barbara County has restricted future annexations to a few areas

“We do need houses, definitely need houses,” he said. “We need to find out too why they aren’t building.”

He agreed Lompoc needs to stop granting extensions to developers, noting the houses are snapped up within days of being on the market.

To maintain reasonable housing prices in Lompoc, Linn contended, the city needs to build 130 homes a year, a milestone he said it has not met.

One reason may be the state laws that boosted developers’ costs, including the green energy rules and need to install fire sprinklers, all driving up the cost of homes 20 percent, Linn said. 

That means a developer who needed $320,000 for a house to break even would instead have to get $380,000. 

“Some of our lowest housing prices have not reached that level yet,” Linn said.

With thousands of residents driving out of town to commute in jobs in Goleta, Santa Barbara and Santa Maria, candidates talked about the need to bring new employers to Lompoc.

Mosby, who was appointed to the council in 2014, said the city should recruit Goleta businesses needing to expand.

“There are quite a few businesses in Goleta that need to grow and expand,” Mosby said, adding that a former Goleta council member told him Lompoc officials should contact businesses.

“If they need a satellite (location), we’d rather have a portion of their business than have them relocate out of state,” Mosby said. 

Lingl said the city has talked to South Coast employers about relocating to Lompoc, but also needs to seek firms with connection at Vandenberg Air Force Base.

“We need to just think and look what is in our own backyard,” Lingl said, adding the city should encourage Space Exploration Technologies to refurbish recycled boosters in Lompoc instead of Long Beach. 

“We need stop using the excuse we’re not on the (Highway) 101 corridor so we’re not going to get these businesses here,” Lingl said. “High technology right now — we build it, they will come.”

Holmdahl said high rents on the South Coast make Lompoc more attractive. 

“There’s businesses that would love to come to Lompoc, we just got to hustle. We haven’t been doing it the way we should be doing it,” Holmdahl said. 

Linn said the city has a “brain trust” involving thousands of daily commuters with diverse job skills.

“The goal is to bring those employers here so their job comes home,” he said. 

The city also has 40 acres designated for an industrial park that would bring between 300 and 1,500 jobs to the community, Linn said, adding Bailey Avenue Corridor annexation would be needed for additional industrial uses. 

“And if we could make that space center happen, it would be a hub for space industry jobs,” Linn said, referring to efforts to develop a space center that have stalled due to lack of qualified developers to make the project happens.

Osborne said the city needs to look at adding dedicated broadband capabilities before recruiting high tech firms, as San Luis Obispo did. 

“We have made missteps along the way. We haven’t always done what we need to do with our WiFI and broadband system,” she said. adding she works with the county on a broadband infrastructure committee. 

“If that network exists, then attracting those high tech business would be much easier than trying to convince them to come here just because we’re close to Santa Barbara or San Luis Obispo,” Osborne said. 

Other topics at the forum moderated by Ken Ostini, chief executive officer and president of the Chamber of Commerce, centered on the arts, street impact fees, legalization of marijuana, homelessness, public safety facilities and more.

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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