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  EIR Showdown
Ann Gardner | Via Latina

 

The Grandstand.  Photo Art Olson.

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Fair Board Chair Barry Nussbaum is postponing board discussion and approval of the Fairgrounds Master Plan Final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) until, ideally, all board members can be present. “I would like everyone here for this meeting; please be flexible with your schedules,” he told board members at their February meeting.

Final comments on the controversial Draft EIR had to be submitted by February 8, 2010, an extension of 30 days from the original deadline. Reportedly, 128 responses were received from numerous public agencies including the City of Del Mar and individuals. Under CEQA guidelines, the Fairgrounds must evaluate all comments received, prepare a written response to comments submitted and provide a written proposed response to any “public agency” at least ten (10) days prior to the hearing to approve or certify the final EIR.

CEQA Guidelines go on to say: “The written response shall describe the disposition of significant environmental issues raised (by the submitting agency).” Major environmental issues raised that are not accepted must be addressed in detail giving reasons why. “There must be good faith, reasoned analysis in response.” Or if the comments and suggestions are accepted, the Fairgrounds response could result in a revision to the draft or included in a separate section of the final EIR.

A best guess estimate of a possible hearing date is April 12. Interested parties should check the Fairgrounds website frequently for updates: www.delmarfairgrounds.com. The Fairgrounds is considering our request to make the Final EIR available for public review before the 10-day requirement for public agencies only, but has confirmed that the four story, 66-foot high hotel proposed in the Draft is omitted in the final document.

Under CEQA Guidelines, the Fair Board decision cannot be appealed to another decision-making body. However, once the EIR is certified the law permits any person or entity to challenge it by filing a lawsuit alleging the EIR does not comply with CEQA because it fails to identify ways to minimize significant environmental effects, fails to offer alternatives to the proposed project or fails to meet other legal requirements. Implementation of specific projects contained in the certified EIR would be subject to review by the California Coastal Commission.

Fairgrounds Panorama.  Photo panorama Art Olson.

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