Wednesday, June 20 , 2018, 2:54 pm | Partly Cloudy 67º

 
 
 
 

Ron Fink: Lompoc Motorsports Committee Asks for EIR, Gets Their Document and More

All the Lompoc Valley Park & Recreation Pool Foundation’s Motorsports Park Committee wanted was for the city to complete the environmental impact report (EIR) for their project. Well, the inch-and-a-half document was released a couple of weeks ago, and they were probably shocked when they read it.

I am sure that all they expected was some discussion of any noise that their activity would produce, but as with all EIR documents when the experts examine all of the potential impacts, there are more issues to consider. Noise turned out to be the least of the committee’s worries.

The motorsports folks have some big hurdles to jump before the annoying whine of dirt bikes and short strip dragsters will be heard at the project site.

They must submit what’s known as a Fugitive Dust Control Plan to the Santa Barbara Air Pollution Control District.

These plans can be expensive to create, implement and monitor. They also have a number of operational limitations for specific types of activities to “limit emission’s” of engine exhaust gasses and dust.

That isn’t all. Construction of the park will cause the loss of “critical habitat” for a variety of critters and bushes. The EIR requires that they find 72.5 acres with “similar habitat conditions, including, elevation, topography, soil conditions, moisture regimes, vegetation composition, percent cover and proximity to the Santa Ynez River.”

This could be a difficult and expensive task because almost all of the 32-mile river bank property is privately owned.

Even if they find the needed acreage, the motorsports folks will have to provide a “Plan (that) will include specific details on a planting palette, invasive species removal and methods for planting and irrigation.”

In other words, they will have to become farmers — forever.

Because they are along a direct tributary to the Pacific Ocean, they’ll need to acquire several permits from regional and federal agencies before they start work. These will likely be very expensive and time consuming to obtain.

This is just the first of a series of actions and approvals that will occur. The EIR correctly states “The proposed Project is not consistent with Federal Acquisition Regulation Part 77’s Transitional and Approach/Departure Surfaces, because proposed structures on site would penetrate such surface areas.”

Studies must be prepared and permits obtained from the Federal Aviation Administration before construction and operation could begin.

The EIR also notes “Skydiving facilities located directly on and adjacent to the proposed Project site would create inconsistencies with the proposed Project operations and Sky Dive Santa Barbara operations.”

The motorsports crew will either have to move the drop zone or coordinate operations so that they can coexist with airport related activities.

People tried to warn them that they’d picked the wrong place to put this project, but the gang’s all-knowing leader, former mayor John Linn wasn’t worried.

He had the council votes in his pocket to approve the project and continue to loan his foundation money so that the EIR could be completed.

Apparently he didn’t consider that this project was along a river bank that was home to numerous threatened and endangered plant, animal and fowl species.

All of the mitigations identified in the EIR require money — lots of money — to successfully implement. The motorsports folks promised that they could do this “at no cost” to the city, but I don’t think they counted on spending large sums of cash to find 72.5 acres of river front property and then plant and irrigate some bushes.

And this is only a draft document; the comment period closes Aug. 8, and who knows what sort of comments will create other costly mitigation measures. Then there is the Airport Master Plan update and the National Environmental Policy Act review to be completed.

As earlier reported by Noozhawk, the city has about $400k at risk if the project isn’t completed within the timelines of the state grant.

Considering that there are two other documents to be completed, it is doubtful that committee will be able to do much of anything but read for the next year or so.

Keep in mind Linn’s promise following the June 7, 2016, council meeting, when three members of the council agreed to allow the process to continue and loaned the foundation more money.

“I know this was a difficult decision for everyone,” Linn said. “I want to assure you that we will work diligently with the city staff to make this go forward. We will raise the money. We’re glad to see the environmental document will be out for the public and everyone will be able to determine what the impacts are and then based on the impacts, we can make changes.”

Well, now they have the EIR. And considering their success, or lack of it, at fundraising so far, I suspect the council will have some tough decisions to make before too much more money is spent.

The three council members that supported this project better hope that the city doesn’t get stuck with the bill if Linn and the LVPRPF decide they can’t afford their motorsports dream.

— 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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