Cities, JPA and fairgrounds settle lawsuit

DEL MAR — Del Mar, Solana Beach, the San Dieguito River Valley Joint Powers Authority and the 22nd District Agricultural Association are giving thanks this holiday week after coming to a settlement agreement on a lawsuit filed in mid-2011 over expansion plans at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. Complete details will be made public once all four parties have signed the agreement and a judge rules the case settled.

Adam Day, president of the 22nd DAA board of directors, which governs the fairgrounds, said after the Nov. 20 meeting the terms include elimination of a proposed 192-square-foot electronic sign along Interstate 5 and lighted sports fields atop new exhibition halls.

The 22nd DAA also agreed to provide increased traffic controls at the Solana Gate during the fair and horse race seasons that could include a traffic signal. The group will consider relocating a proposed parking structure from the north portion of the east overflow lot.

Day said the board will also identify and analyze more intersections for potential mitigation. “If we are making impacts, we will mitigate for our fair share,” he said.

The agreement also ensures the board will not pursue construction of a hotel on the site for five years, Day said.

Del Mar, Solana Beach and the JPA teamed up to challenge an environmental impact report certified by the 22nd DAA board in April 2011. (Only three directors who approved the EIR remain on the board.)

Before approving the document, the board took out a proposed 330-room hotel-condominium with an 18,000-square-foot ballroom, but many said it was an empty move because it could be added back later.

Del Mar, Solana Beach and JPA officials said the document did not adequately address many issues, including traffic, noise and lighting impacts, and the 22nd DAA did not seek sufficient input from either city, as it was required to do.

Del Mar and Solana Beach have long complained the fairgrounds does not fully reimburse the two cities for public safety services they provide for the 300-plus annual events at the fairgrounds.

Day said the board agreed to conduct an infrastructure cost analysis to document the actual costs for services provided as well as revenue generated by the district for the cities.

The agreement also settles a long-standing disagreement between Del Mar and the 22nd DAA over how much the 22nd DAA should pay for state-mandated clean water costs.

“It’s safe to say we’re very pleased,” Day said, adding the settlement is in the best interest of each agency “and the public that we serve.”

“This is a new board and we’re proud of the steps we’ve taken to be a good neighbor,” Day said. “I’m glad the councils and our board came to an agreement. It demonstrates this board is willing to work cooperatively.”

“I’m very pleased,” Del Mar Mayor Carl Hilliard said. “This is a very positive step forward that indicates we’re going to continue to work together and compromise on issues that are important.”

Fair board Director David Watson said representatives from the two cities and the 22nd DAA were “giddy with delight” over the settlement during a meeting of the Community Relations Committee held Nov. 20.

Final details of an Oct. 2 ruling on a lawsuit filed against the 22nd DAA by the San Diego chapter of the Sierra Club are still being worked out, Day said.

Although both sides claimed victory in that lawsuit, the judge sided with the fairgrounds on most issues.

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