Voters in Lompoc will get to decide the fate of land where a private developer has proposed building an ambitious space-themed education and entertainment attraction.
On Tuesday night, the Lompoc City Council voted 4-1 to essentially table a request to put the matter on the March 2024 ballot, instead favoring the November 2024 election. Councilman Dirk Starbuck voted against the item.
Sometime in the late spring or early summer, the City Council will formally take steps to place the item on the November 2024 ballot.
Pale Blue Dot Ventures has proposed the space-themed educational and recreational development for 82 acres owned by the city, including Ken Adam Park.
“I think this is a great project in a vacuum. I’d love to see it happen,” Councilman Jeremy Ball said. “I’m not convinced yet that it’s feasible, and I think it’s fair for the community and for its citizens and for the people interested to figure out whether it can come to fruition.”
“I think that going to a vote is absolutely right, but I don’t have enough information to make a good decision yet, and I think the public needs that time to do it,” Mayor Jenelle Osborne said.
The city acquired the land in 1984 from the federal government with restrictions on how the property could be used. Restrictions still in place require the land be used for education, recreation or open space.
City Attorney Jeff Malawy told the council that California voters must decide whether a city should change the use of land operated as a public park to a non-public park.
“Voter approval of changing the park use of the site does not require that the park cease operations,” Malawy said. “It does not require the City Council to approve any other use for the site. It only allows other uses to be established on the site if the city decides that it would like to approve other uses.”
Making the March 2024 deadline would come with an extremely tight deadline. Pale Blue Dot wanted the item on that ballot, Malawy said.
One requirement involves an environmental analysis of the decision to change the use of the land where the park sits.
Turnout typically is higher for presidential general elections, like the one set for November 2024 when several local races, including City Council and school board races, will appear on the ballot.
Since mid-2019, the city has been in talks with Pale Blue Dot through a memorandum of understanding extended multiple times. The MOU required that the representatives meet several milestones.
In April, the City Council called for the financial feasibility study to undergo independent analysis by a financial consultant with theme park revenue experience. That consultant will report the findings and conclusions possibly in November.
Audience members spoke in favor and against the project, with one man saying the city needs to consider the analysis by the financial consultant before making any decisions about the for-profit project.
“Basically, you’re placing Disneyland up on the hill,” he said. “Anyone seen the price of Disneyland lately?”
Others expressed excitement about the opportunities the project could provide, especially for youths and the wider Lompoc community with a focus on science, technology, engineering, math and space exploration.
Will Schuyler urged the council to approve placing the item on the ballot.
“Bring it to the public. Let us decide,” he said.
Project proponents said the team had to raise $750,000 by September, but now has secured $1.1 million.
“We’re pretty confident we can keep going,” said Steven Franck, Pale Blue Dot CEO and co-founder.
Pale Blue Dot agreed to cover all the costs for holding the election, Malawy added.