Public comment period ends for fairgrounds draft EIR

Amount of letters called ‘voluminous’
After 120 days, the public comment period for the Del Mar Fairgrounds’ proposed expansion’s draft environmental impact report has finally ended.

While there is no total yet on how many letters were submitted during this extended time for review, Fairgrounds President Barry Nussbaum said a “very voluminous” amount came in before Monday’s 5 p.m. deadline. He said a master plan committee would review the comments over 90 days, coming back in six months with suggestions.

The fairgrounds expansion, which calls for a hotel and fitness complex and new exhibit halls large enough for rooftop soccer fields, has received immense criticism from several angles, including bordering cities, state politicians, environmental groups and utility companies.

“I think it’s one of the rare times you see the political side aligning with the environmental side,” said attorney Pamela Epstein, who drafted the Sierra Club’s comment letter.

Several letters submitted say the 4,400-page document violates the California Environmental Quality Act and must be redrafted and re-circulated. They say there is vague analysis of impacts on the environment, ambiguity between short and long-term projects, and limited presentation of alternate plans.

In an interview on Tuesday, fairgrounds CEO Tim Fennell said he stands behind the EIR.

“We spent eight years working on it,” he said. “We had public meetings and we had public comment on it. I think it’s been very thorough, but we’ll take all the comments, we’ll review them and we’ll respond to them from A to Z.”

Fennell said modern exhibit halls are desperately needed to replace the ones built in the 1950s. He said criticism of the project comes from deeper-seated sentiment.

“There are people out there that are not pro-annual fair, they’re not pro-racing, they’re not pro-events, and so those people are going to be grasping at straws and come up with everything they can think of,” he said.

Del Mar Mayor Richard Earnest said the city does want to work with the fairgrounds staff and board on a plan that is best for both the city and fairgrounds, but does not see that happening.

“If history is any habit I think the board will do whatever they want to do,” he said. “Will they listen to us? I think that would be new if they did.”

When asked if the same train of anti-fairgrounds thought applied to criticism from the governments of Solana Beach and Del Mar, Fennell said: “To be honest with you, obviously yesterday was the deadline, I haven’t reviewed the letters so I’m not sure at this point. I’d like to read what they’ve written to be able to accurately comment on it.”

Epstein said the Sierra Club is not anti-growth and sees value in modernizing the fairgrounds, but like the city councils of Del Mar and Solana Beach have said , the organization feels there are too many major inadequacies in the draft EIR for a project of this magnitude.

Related posts:

  1. Fairgrounds extends EIR review time
  2. Fair board doubles plan review time; Draft EIR for fairgrounds Master Plan released
  3. City to fairgrounds: Draft EIR invalid
  4. Fairgrounds CEO Fennell responds to project criticism
  5. Fairgrounds plans available for review

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Posted by on Feb 10, 2010. Filed under Archives. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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