Solano County

County OKs Solano fairgrounds master plan

By From page A3 | February 27, 2013

FAIRFIELD — Solano County, after a decade of effort and some occasional wrong turns, finally has a fairgrounds redevelopment plan.

A “Fair of the Future” is to have a new exhibition hall and other fair facilities for the annual county fair. It is to have shops, restaurants and a central creek park. It is to have $94 million in new roads, public buildings and other infrastructure installed in phases over 25 years.

The Solano County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved the fairgrounds redevelopment master plan and environmental impact report. The 149-acre county-owned fairgrounds is located in Vallejo near Interstate 80 and Highway 37.

Now the county will ask the Vallejo City Council to consider passing a tentative map and development agreement for the project, perhaps in May. If the Vallejo City Council approves the project, the county Board of Supervisors would consider the development agreement in late May or June.

Ultimately, the county would decide whether to issue a series of bonds totaling $94 million to build the public infrastructure. Developers would have to come forward to lease land and build the private enterprise components of the project.

“I really think this is an awesome opportunity for Vallejo and an awesome opportunity for Solano,” said Supervisor Erin Hannigan, whose district includes much of Vallejo. “Really what this is is laying the framework.”

There are risks and the county goes into this with eyes wide open, she said. That is why the county intends to take baby steps, she said.

Supervisor Jim Spering stressed that there are more votes to come.

“This is just one step in a long journey to develop this property,” Spering said.

The board will have to do some soul-searching when it comes to the financing, he said.

Both the Vallejo Chamber of Commerce and Vallejo Convention and Business Bureau endorsed the project. Pippin Dew of the chamber board said the plan turns an underutilized property into a revenue generator for the city.

Vallejo resident Doug Darling objected to the way the plan manages water flow on the property. It doesn’t create a synergy with the watershed and nearby Lake Chabot, but a division, he said.

Gary Falati, a Fairfield resident and Solano County Fair Association member, said this is the first time he remembers that the staffs of Vallejo, the fair association and county have agreed.

“If you adopt the staff recommendation today, history will be made in this room,” Falati said.

Falati described the “Fair of the Future” not only as good for the fair and Vallejo, but also as a regional project, much like the Solano Town Center mall in Fairfield. It does raise major traffic concerns and neighboring Six Flags Discovery Kingdom amusement park will have to help contribute financially to the solutions, he said.

George Guynn of the Central Solano Citizen/Taxpayer’s Group expressed concern over the plan for the county to issue bonds in phases to pay for project infrastructure. Supervisors need to think twice before committing the public to years of bond payments, he said.

Phase one of the redevelopment is to take place over five years, according to the presentation made to the board. It includes the replacement of the fair exhibition hall with a modern hall for conventions, festivals and other events year-round, the building of a central creek park and building of various entertainment uses, shops and restaurants.

Phase two is to be built from years six to 15. It includes building a transportation center, more entertainment and commercial uses, an entertainment area similar to an amusement park and surface parking.

The final phase from years 16 to 25 includes doubling the size of the exhibition hall and building parking structures.

The Board of Supervisors in July 2000 decided it wanted to redevelop the fairgrounds. It worked with the Mills Co. during the mid-2000s on a vision, but didn’t like the results. In 2007, it launched another effort that culminated in the plans passed by the board Tuesday.

Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.

Barry Eberling

Barry Eberling

Barry Eberling has been a reporter with the Daily Republic since 1987. He covers Solano County government, transportation, growth and the environment. He received his bachelors of art degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara and his masters degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley.

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