Sunday, October 9, 2016

Motorsports group briefly withholds payment in attempt to spur city



The committee working to build the Lompoc Valley Motorsports Park briefly withheld a scheduled payment to the city this past week in an apparent attempt to spur the city into taking action regarding a land-use issue at the Lompoc Airport.

The controversial project is in a state of limbo until the Federal Aviation Administration signs off a new layout plan for the Lompoc Airport, which is where the project is planned for construction. The city announced last month that it was told by the FAA that the organization would not approve such a plan until a satisfactory agreement is reached between the city, the motorsports group and the owner of Skydive Santa Barbara, which operates from the Lompoc Airport.

Carl Creel and Will Schuyler, who are co-chairs of the motorsports project’s organizing committee, each stressed at Tuesday’s City Council meeting that they believe the city isn’t doing its part to help the project along. They pointed to what they felt was a lack of progress from the city in reaching a resolution with Skydive Santa Barbara and announced that they would be withholding a $12,622 payment, which was due Sept. 30, due to the city’s “lack of performance.”

“The FAA has told the city that we are to draw a line, a spot for (Skydive Santa Barbara), but it doesn’t say where it has to be,” Schuyler said at the meeting. “So I have advised my group to withhold payment, because we haven’t had any performance from the city. You’re holding us up and you’ve been holding us up for several years over this very item. The city is the landlord and (Skydive Santa Barbara) is your tenant.”

Creel later accused David Hughes, the owner of Skydive Santa Barbara, of “holding the project hostage.”

Lompoc City Manager Patrick Wiemiller said at the meeting that he was “extremely disturbed” by what he deemed as an “intentional breach” of the memorandum of understanding between the city and the project committee, which requires that the committee submit a $12,622 payment to the city each month from August through November.

Wiemiller said that night that he was considering his options moving forward, which included directing city staff to cease work on the project, but the two sides met Wednesday and apparently worked out their differences for the time being.

The city announced Wednesday afternoon that the committee had submitted the September payment that day, and stated in a release that “city of Lompoc administrators and (motorsports project) leadership have resolved to work together to continue moving the project forward.”

Hughes, the Skydive Santa Barbara owner, has in the past publicly stated his opposition to the project and has suggested that it could force him to move his business to Santa Maria. Ever since the FAA issue was brought to light, however, he has not spoken at any public meetings.

Some people close to the motorsports project have said their intention is not to force Hughes and Skydive Santa Barbara out of the Lompoc Airport but, rather, to move the business’ landing area to a different but equal in size location.

If all sides fail to reach an acceptable arrangement, the FAA will be the arbitrator, according to city staff.

Since the payment issue was sorted out Wednesday, city staff reports that City Council review of the final Environmental Impact Report, or EIR, for the project is tentatively scheduled for Nov. 1.

Lompoc Planning Manager Lucille Breese also announced Tuesday that California State Parks acknowledged on Sept. 15 that it will be reimbursing the city $171,819 as part of the nearly $1 million grant awarded from the state to the city for the project.

In separate action Tuesday, the council voted unanimously to amend the city’s municipal code relating to the Parks and Recreation Commission, which is a separate entity from the Lompoc Parks, Recreation and Pool Foundation (LVPRPF) that is overseeing the Motorsports Park project.

It was discovered in February that the commission had been empowered with fee and policy-setting authority, which was in violation of state law. That authority now will be solely placed on the City Council, with the Parks and Recreation Commission serving in an advisory role.

The next regular meeting of the City Council is slated for Oct. 18. 

Story and photo gallery:  http://lompocrecord.com

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