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Residents, officials unsure on development at Solano Fairgrounds
July 14, 2011
By Tony Burchyns , Vallejo Times-Herald
Contra Costa Times
Vallejo residents and City Council members aired mixed views Tuesday night on whether the Solano County Fairgrounds should be developed into some sort of entertainment center or left alone because the area is already a "toxic waste dump of noises."
Some Vallejo residents and council members said they'd prefer a sports complex to the recommended mix of retail, entertainment and dining at 900 Fairgrounds Drive.
Another resident worried that new development could add to noise issues tied to Six Flags Discovery Kingdom. Some residents have complained about outdoor concerts and other sounds emanating from the amusement park across the street from the aging fairgrounds property.
Also, a local Lake Chabot advocate encouraged making the nearby Dan Foley Park lake a higher priority in the planning process.
The Tuesday night discussion revolved on a June market study that finds that hotel, retail and office development may not be economically feasible in the near term.
Instead, the report recommends sprucing up existing fairgrounds facilities, exploring adding entertainment options and possible outlet retail establishments that could support a possible restaurant row.
Project consultants further suggest investigating whether Six Flags would be willing to pay for and collaborate on operating other entertainment attractions tied to its business.
The report's key suggestion is to capitalize on Six Flags' regional draw by adding entertainment features to the site. It cited Merlin Entertainment's Legoland theme park as one possible example.
Members of the joint city-county-fairgrounds planning panel are expected to meet with Six Flags representatives soon to explore that idea, project manager Tom Sinclaire told the council Tuesday.
The project's master plan isn't expected to be completed until next summer, Sinclaire said. The next step will be the release of the project design, expected later this month.
The Solano County Board of Supervisors is expected to consider it in August, Sinclaire said.
Vallejo resident Sean Maddox, who lives in the Parkview Terrace neighborhood above Six Flags, spoke against creating an "amusement park" at the site.
"I want to give you perspective from my neighbors and myself after 14 years of living above Six Flags," said Maddox, who's announced he's running for mayor. "It is now on the verge of becoming a toxic waste dump of noises."
Maddox recommended building a youth sports complex at the site.
Another Vallejo resident, Doug Darling, who's an advocate for Lake Chabot preservation, asked the council to focus more on enhancing the lake's recreational and environmental qualities.
"The developers aren't interested in Lake Chabot, and I don't think our city is either," said Darling.
City Councilwoman Marti Brown said her main concern is whether Vallejo would profit from new development because revenues would have to be shared with the county.
Brown and Councilwoman Stephanie Gomes both said they favor exploring the sports complex idea.
Councilwoman Erin Hannigan said guessing what the project will look like at this stage is like trying to "land a plane in a snowstorm." Hannigan also said the project should be flexible enough to change with the times.
Mayor Osby Davis said he thinks the city and county are "where we need to be" in terms of the lengthy planning process. A final master plan isn't expected until next summer.
"We came up with a vision and then wanted to see if there's a market for it," Davis said. "I think we have gone in the direction we wanted to go and the market study came back and showed us where we are."
"We are looking at alternative uses, entertainment uses at this time," Davis added.