Solana Beach prepares for massive fairgrounds expansion
Consultants will be brought in to analyze impact
In a testament to the potential impact of the project, the Solana Beach City Council tripled the city manager’s suggested monetary allocation for hiring consultants to analyze the environmental effects of a massive Del Mar Fairgrounds expansion.
During their Oct. 28 meeting at city hall, the council voted unanimously to spend $75,000 on the experts, three times the original suggestion from City Manager David Ott. Solana Beach has until Jan. 8, 2010, to deliver its concerns to the 22nd District Agricultural Association, operators of the Del Mar Fairgrounds.
Proposed is a major renovation of the fairgrounds site, including three new exhibition halls, a hotel large enough to fit three rooftop soccer fields, a parking structure, a new fire station, and a large TV board overlooking Interstate 5.
“They’re virtually building a new city right next door to us across the street,” said City Councilman Joe Kellejian. “We have to watch this thing very, very closely.”
On Oct. 9, the Del Mar Fairgrounds released a 4,500-page environmental impact report, including 78 pages of known significant impacts to the region. Traffic, noise, lighting and public safety will be affected, according to the document.
Solana Beach Mayor Mike Nichols said a typical consultant costs $200 per hour, which means $25,000 can buy 125 hours. That amount, he said, is not nearly enough.
“You’re probably going to get three days out of each person,” he said, assuming the city hired five consultants. “You’re going to chew it up before you know it, and I don’t want to come back here next week just to sit here and say ‘yes, we need more money.’”
Councilman David Roberts originally said he would only support funding toward experts who were from out of the county, and therefore less likely to be biased.
“I do not believe there are [local] consultants that will tell the full truth,” he said, echoing many of the speakers from the public comment portion. “We learned that on the Cedros Crossing project and I’m not going to go through that again.”
But Ott asked he not be limited to only finding outside sources, saying there are several locals who will be unbiased. The measure passed unanimously after other council members gave Ott a vote of confidence.
“I support our city manager when he asks, ‘leave it up to me.’ He may get it from out of town, he may get it from in town, but he’s going to make the decision,” Kellejian said. “I don’t want to make that decision for him.”
The $75,000 will come from the General Fund Reserve. The council also voted to allocate $2,500 of that money to postcard mailers to spread awareness of the expansion.
Additionally, the council approved a roughly $275,000 contract with Van Dyke Landscape Architects to improve La Colonia Park and Community Center.
The night began with students from several area schools receiving honors for pledging to refuse drugs and alcohol. Each was presented with a red wristband and certificate from Nichols.
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