The City is pursuing the purchase of the Fairgrounds from the State. Real estate negotiations of this nature are typically done behind closed doors. But this does not mean that there cannot be public discussions of WHY?, HOW?, and does the community really want this? These discussions with the community must happen!
It is possible that fairgrounds purchase could be a good thing (make money for city, allow long-advocated control, especially as regards environmental issues), but the process is critical. This Council has a pronounced tendency to go for shortcuts around the “Del Mar way.” We need a serious community conversation about the pros and cons of this opportunity. This could be an incredible transformation of our town in terms of our ability to control objectionable activities and damage to the lagoon environment. But we need to look hard at the pragmatic concessions we may have to make in order to gain control over future development.
We clearly do not have control now so the key question is how can we gain control without giving up our core interests and values.
A number of questions need to be discussed that do not need knowledge of the actual negotiations. Specifically:
- How will the city afford the price?
- How will the fairgrounds be managed?
- What is the plan for the buildings vis a vis the fairgrounds master plan?
- Is there a realistic alternative of gaining city control of what goes on there through zoning and environmental controls?
- Will the state as seller impose restraints on what Del Mar can do with the property?
In order to finance the purchase, would the City have to enter into deals with a developer, for instance, that would limit our ability to reach the goals with respect to traffic control, controlled/limited development, and environmental protection that are the reasons we would want to own and control the property?
With other major city purchases such as Powerhouse Park, Seagrove Park and Del Mar Shores School site, there was much community input and a dedicated group of people interested in the acquisition and maintenance of the properties. To achieve that groundswell of support, The Council needs to open the process up to the community at large.
We also need to consider what happens if the state sells to a private concern. In the past, The Sandpiper has urged the city to adopt zoning and Community Plan provisions governing the Fairgrounds property. Adopting such development control is important to set forth the rules in the event of a sale, whether the buyer is the City or a private party. Having zoning and planning provisions in place would also be crucial in any sale scenario in setting the price, as the price is reflective of what uses, density, etc., are allowed.
These are only a few of the questions and concerns that need to be aired in a transaction of this magnitude. At this point the Council is way ahead of the community’s understanding and preferences. The Council needs to involve citizens as quickly as possible to achieve a solid consensus on the way forward.