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Lompoc Motorsports Park Faces New Costs for Environmental Studies

Proponents of a planned motorsports complex got some unwelcome news Tuesday night at the Lompoc City Council meeting — an additional $140,000 will be needed to complete Federal Aviation Administration requirements necessary to approve the project on Lompoc Airport land.

City Manager Patrick Wiemiller revealed the news during a report and asked council members to hold a special meeting May 12 to discuss the unexpected expenses.

“We’ve got new information,” Wiemiller said. “For us to continue with the project, we’ve got additional environmental work to do. So there has to be some discussion as to how we go about paying for this additional work.”

The FAA requirements include additional environmental studies under the National Environmental Protection Act, estimated to cost $65,000, according to Wiemiller.

Wiemiller said some parts of the environmental review now underway for the state’s California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) will meet NEPA requirements, but additional work will be required because federal law mandates different testing protocols than state law.

In addition, Wiemiller said a new master plan for the Lompoc Airport — purchased with FAA funds — must be prepared at an estimated cost of $75,000.

“We will also be required by the FAA to modify the master plan and airport planned layout to reflect that there’s now going to be a motorsports park there,” he said.

The motorsports complex, including a drag strip, was first proposed in June 2012 by a community nonprofit, the Lompoc Valley Park, Recreation and Pool Foundation.

The city received a $1-million state grant in 2013 to pay for the environmental review and help with construction costs for one portion of the proposed complex, the off-highway vehicle riding area.

The foundation signed a memorandum of understanding with the city in 2014 to lease the airport land and pay 50 percent of the $232,000 cost for the consultant hired to perform the environmental study.

Under the terms of the grant, the city could be required to reimburse the state for costs of the environmental work if construction is not completed by March 2017. The amount the city could be on the hook to return to the state is about $192,000, according to city staff.

John Linn, nonprofit foundation chairman and former mayor, said he learned about the new FAA requirements on Monday.

“We’re working today with the city staff to clearly understand what needs to be done,” Linn said.  

“I think it’s unfortunate that this question (about FAA requirements) wasn’t raised in early conversations between the consultant and the FAA.”

Linn said the nonprofit would come up with additional funds, if necessary. “As an organization, we will rise to the needs and move the project forward,” he said.

In other business, a routine approval of a five-year plan for spending Measure A transportation funds hit a speedbump when council members balked at committing $1.65 million in city funds that would include revenue from new fees charged to utility ratepayers.

The new fees are part of a complex “enterprise cost reimbursement” proposal developed by a consultant that has not yet been approved by the council.

The proposal would charge user-funded municipal utility departments and the Lompoc Airport for public safety, capital improvements to city facilities, and street maintenance and repairs.

Without the revenue from the proposed new fees — a total of $5 million over the next three years — Lompoc staff warned “the city will need to eliminate all street maintenance and rehabilitation projects” and make cuts to its street, urban forestry and engineering departments.

Measure A is a half-cent sales tax approved by Santa Barbara County voters in 2008 that is estimated to raise approximately $1 billion for transportation projects countywide over 30 years.

Lompoc’s share of the total expected to be generated from Measure A is $65.4 million.

According to the staff report, the city will receive $2.2 million in Measure A funds in 2016-l7, but the amount of funds available increases to $3.63 million with $1.4 million carried over from previous years.

The five-year plan presented to council must be submitted to the Santa Barbara Association of Governments by June in order for Lompoc to qualify for Measure A funds.

Faced with the looming deadline, the council voted 5-0 to approve the five-year transportation spending plan after receiving assurances the plan could be modified if the new fees are not approved and other funding sources aren’t available.

Noozhawk contributing writer Carol Benham is a longtime local journalist who lives in Lompoc. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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