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Proposed Lompoc Motorsports Park Draft Environmental Report Under Scrutiny

The proposed motorsports park near the Lompoc Airport includes a drag strip, track and trail ride area. Click to view larger
The proposed motorsports park near the Lompoc Airport includes a drag strip, track and trail ride area.  (City of Lompoc photo)

The long-anticipated draft environmental impact report for a proposed motorsports park on Lompoc Airport land is keeping supporters and opponents preoccupied with a like-minded activity — studying the 549-page document that will play a major role in whether the project will be built.

Released on June 27, the draft EIR identifies the environmental impacts of the planned activities at the proposed motorsports park and identifies ways to minimize or mitigate significant adverse impacts.

The proposed park includes the phased development of off-highway vehicle tracks, pit areas, motocross arenas, grandstands, a 1/8-mile drag strip, and a permanent structure for vehicle storage.

Prepared by Meridian Consultants of Westlake Village, the report concluded that one potential impact — air quality from vehicle emissions — cannot be mitigated and is considered “adverse, significant and unavoidable.”  

Specifically, the report states that “mobile volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides emissions” will exceed air quality standards established by the Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District even with mitigation measures to limit the number of vehicles and operational hours for the project. 

In addition, the report concluded that if the motorsports park becomes operational, the resulting changes to the 38 acres of land bordering the Santa Ynez River would be irreversible. 

“Implementation of the proposed project would irreversibly commit the non-urbanized land to a mixture of outdoor motorsports recreational uses. The irreversible environmental changes of this urbanization include increased traffic volumes, incremental degradation of the regional air quality, additional noise generated from the project site and employees, participants, and spectators frequenting the site, and changes to the visual environment that will not likely be reversed,” the report states.

The report also cited the possibility of “irreversible damage caused by environmental accidents … from accidental spills or explosions of hazardous materials.”

However, one of the most contested potential impacts of the project — noise — was determined to be “less than significant” and no mitigation measures were recommended. 

After testing four vehicles to simulate noise the motorsports activities would generate, noise sensors at 16 nearby locations detected only marginal increases above the existing, or ambient, noise levels of between 65 to 72 decibels, measured as dBs.

According to the Center for Hearing and Communication, 70 dB is roughly equivalent to the indoor sound of a vacuum cleaner or coffee grinder. 

John Linn, chair of the Lompoc Valley Park, Recreation and Pool Foundation, the project developer, said the nonprofit was still reviewing the draft EIR, but was encouraged that it contained few surprises. 

“There’s nothing in here that seems insurmountable. It came out better than I thought it would,” Linn said.

“We’re happy that the design work we did on the project and a great deal of time was spent on the noise component to minimize the noise to the surrounding neighborhood was successful. That’s good news.”

But Donald Edwards, a local engineer, told City Council members recently that he believed the noise study was inadequate.

“There is no data. All it is is simulated computer data that has a major flaw,” Edwards said. “I feel that any data in those tables is off by a minimum of 20 db.”  

Jason Osborne, an engineer and resident who lives near the planned project, also analyzed the noise study data and shared his findings in an online blog, calling the noise study’s results “patently false.”

Some of the report’s recommended mitigation measures include: 

»  Limitations on the park’s operating hours and restrictions on off-highway vehicles and motorcross events to reduce vehicular emissions. 

»  Planting, restoration and long-term maintenance of 72.5 acres of arroyo willow thicket, coyote brush scrub and other plant species at an off-site location near the Santa Ynez River to replace lost habitat. An additional 7.1 acres of habitat must be identified, planted and maintained to replace the existing runway expansion mitigation requirement.

»  Develop a plan with Skydive Santa Barbara to identify alternative landing zones and restrict skydiving operations when off-highway vehicle and drag racing events are being held.

»  Develop a Traffic and Parking Control Plan for large events to include multiple entry gate operators and a traffic control officer at the Central Avenue and V Street entrance.

The draft EIR — and 1,141 pages of appendices — is available on the city’s website. The mandatory 45-day public review and comment period has been extended to Aug. 15 due to an typographical error in the email address provided to submit comments. 

Following the close of the public review, Meridian will review and respond to all public and agency comments received. After the final EIR is prepared, it will be brought to the Lompoc Planning Commission for approval before the City Council will be asked to certify the document.

Noozhawk contributing writer Carol Benham 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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