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Thursday, February 21 , 2019, 1:00 am | Fair 47º


Ron Fink: Last Call for Lompoc Motorsports Project — Maybe

The saga of the Lompoc Motorsports Project reads like the Abbott and Costello “who’s on first” skit.  There were so many missteps, twists and turns, they never could figure out who was on first, what was on second or who was on third.

The park foundation never could make it to home plate because they kept hitting foul balls.

When John Linn was mayor, he ramrodded a Kids Motor Fun Park through the city bureaucracy in less time than it takes to say it.

Red tape was slashed, and the project was built in less than three days so the park foundation (Linn was its chairman prior to his election) could ask the city to partner with them and seek a grant from the California Department of Parks and Recreation Off Highway Motor Vehicle Division to build the larger project.

Linn knew the city didn’t have enough money to build and operate a motorsports park, so a bold group of racing enthusiasts organized themselves under the umbrella of the Lompoc Valley Parks, Recreation and Pool Foundation to build and operate the project on city-owned property at the municipal airport next to the Santa Ynez River with donated funds.

While Linn hovered over their shoulders, city staff hurriedly created the necessary paperwork to acquire the grant, and the project then became a “city project. A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was created, and the park foundation agreed to build and operate the park for the city.

That’s where their problems began. Linn and his team wouldn’t listen to anyone; they were going to put it on the airport no matter what. Linn was used to getting his way with the city staff, but he would find that state and federal agencies were less prone to his intimidating style.

To make matters worse, the foundation was consistently late in providing critical information such as a preliminary design to get the environmental review process started.

A Nov. 25, 2015, Notice of Preparation of an Environmental Impact Report by the city described a two-phase project that included in the first phase an off-highway vehicle (OHV) area, relocation of an existing Kids Motor Fun Park, a quarter-mile oval dirt track, a seven-acre multi-track, and a low-speed trail-riding area open to motorcycles, quads and mountain bikes.

The second component included an International Hot Rod Association (IHRA) sanctioned one-eighth mile drag strip that would have grandstands and pit areas.

To avoid any serious questioning of the project, the council majority directed staff to bypass the standard protocol of moving the project through the Planning Commission and bring it directly to the council for approval. This would avoid any serious fact-finding and speed the process along.

During the EIR process, issues were raised by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service associated with endangered plant and riparian (riverside) species in the project area, which would require the city/foundation to acquire 75 acres of riparian habitat and maintain it for the life of the project.

The Federal Aviation Administration concluded that because this project had nothing to do with furthering the aviation industry it had no business on an airport.

With the FAA withholding approval, the project was effectively dead at this point, but Linn and his three councilmen pals wouldn’t give up.

On Feb. 2, the city Airport Commission minutes provided a project update: “Motorsports Project Update: Staff re‐stated what happened at the previous City Council meeting where a vote was taken not to apply for another state grant to assist in the development of the Motorsports Park.

"As of this date there has been no additional forward movement involving development of the previously proposed Motorsports Park.”
On July 18, seeing no path to complete the project as proposed the staff sought “a Formal Notice of Termination” for the ill-fated project.

The council majority consisting of councilmen Jim Mosby (former chairman of the park foundation and signatory to the MOU on behalf of that organization), Dirk Starbuck and Victor Vega, rejected that idea when former mayor Linn said the park foundation had new, improved plans for the park.

The city manager suggested the park foundation representatives meet with him and provide their new plan. They had been consistently late in providing both information and the agreed-to payments in the past, and this time wouldn’t be any different.

After several weeks, the foundation finally showed up to meet with the city manager. Instead of presenting a new plan as they said they would, Linn again went over a laundry list of grievances with the process.

On Tuesday, Dec. 5, an item to “review the Motorsports Park agreement” is back on the City Council agenda. It’s time to declare “last call” for this waste of staff time and close the book on another John Linn/Jim Mosby failure.

— Ron Fink, a Lompoc resident since 1975, is retired from the aerospace industry and has been active with Lompoc municipal government commissions and committee since 1992, including 12 years on the Lompoc Planning Commission. He is also a voting member of the Santa Barbara County Taxpayers Association. Contact him at [email protected]. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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