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FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
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County to vote on Solano fairgrounds redevelopment

fair_development

Artist rendering of proposed development at the Solano County Fairgrounds in Vallejo. (Courtesy photo)

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From page A1 | February 26, 2013 | 27 Comments

FAIRFIELD — A proposed master plan with the goal of turning the 149-acre Solano County fairgrounds into a regional attraction with shops and entertainment is ready for the county Board of Supervisors’ consideration.

The board on Tuesday will decide whether to adopt the plan and certify the project’s environmental impact report. It will consider the issue during a 2 p.m. session at the county Government Center, 675 Texas St.

Should the board vote yes, the county will submit the documents to Vallejo. That city would be a partner in the project, since the fairground property is within its borders near Highway 37 and Interstate 80.

Ultimately, the county would have to find a developer to make the commercial parts of the fairgrounds vision a reality. The county and Vallejo would have to take steps to finance $94 million in proposed infrastructure improvements. Solano County owns the fairgrounds.

The goal is to create a “Fair of the Future,” which would be “an iconic, region-serving public entertainment destination with private mixed-use development,” according to the proposed fairgrounds specific plan.

Solano County’s annual fair would take place on 35 acres. Many of the existing fairgrounds buildings would be demolished and replaced. A key feature would be a new 72,000-square-foot exposition hall that the master plan says could be used not only for the annual fair, but to attract consumer shows, conventions and festivals during other times of the year.

Another 30 acres would become a year-round entertainment area that could include outdoor rides, much like an amusement park.

Still another 18.8 acres would be a commercial area with shops and restaurants. Possibly residences and offices could be on the upper floors of the commercial buildings.

The “spine” of the public entertainment area is to be a creek park. Other parts of the property would be used for parking and roads.

All of this is to be built in phases over 25 years. Financing for the project is also to be done in phases.

The Board of Supervisors has authorized spending $4.4 million to develop a vision for the fairgrounds and do the associated environmental studies. The county has spent $3.48 million. The money is to be repaid to the county general fund with money generated by the project and is thus classified as a loan, though project critics have expressed skepticism this will happen.

New roads and other public infrastructure are needed to reshape the fairgrounds at a cost of $93.5 million, according to a fiscal report by Goodwin Consulting Group. Additional money is needed to repay proposed short-term financing to be used to defer costs for oversizing the initial infrastructure.

Solano County would issue certificates of participation bonds totaling $94 million, with the money to be repaid through property taxes, sales taxes, leases, fair revenues and other money generated by the project.

Vallejo would create a Mello-Roos district on the fair property to recoup the share of redevelopment costs to be paid by private enterprise. It would issue $28.6 million in bonds to be repaid by the Mello-Roos assessment. A Mello-Roos district allows a city to enact a special property tax within the district boundaries.

When finished, the project could generate $3.7 million for the county while costing $500,000 annually, the fiscal report said. The project could net Vallejo $1.7 million annually.

Solano County has received letters commenting on the project’s draft environmental impact report. The proposed final version to be voted on Tuesday by the Board of Supervisors includes answers to various comments.

For example, the state Department of Transportation in a letter noted that I-80 and Highway 37 are close to the fairgrounds.

“Given the massive scale of the proposed project, the traffic generated will have a significant regional impact to the already congested state highway system,” the letter said.

Caltrans urged the county to develop a regional transportation fee program to help make road improvements. The final report proposes no such fee.

The Vallejo Sanitation Flood Control District brought up the issue of Rindler Creek, which historically flowed through the center of the property. It recommends relocating the creek back to its original path, adding this would help with flood control and help gain the support of environmental regulatory agencies.

Although the project does have a central creek park, the final environmental report recommends against using this water feature to handle floodwaters. That would mean setting back development from the water’s edge and eliminating the water feature as an “iconic destination amenity,” the report said.

Solano County has looked at redeveloping its fairgrounds since 2000. A previous effort involving the Mills Corp. in the mid-2000s failed. The county then decided to come up with its own vision for the fairgrounds before finding a developer.

Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or beberling@dailyrepublic.net. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.

At a glance

  • Who: Solano County Board of Supervisors
  • What: County fairgrounds redevelopment
  • When: 2 p.m. Tuesday
  • Where: County Government Center, 675 Texas St., Fairfield
  • Info: 784-6100

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.
LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 27 comments

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  • StRFebruary 26, 2013 - 7:31 am

    www.co.solano.ca.us/

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • StRFebruary 26, 2013 - 7:37 am

    I do like this county's website...www dot co dot solano dot ca dot us.....click on Board Meetings... click on agenda/Upcoming events...go down to the 2pm schedule to look at the documents submitted for the hearing.....I still think the Bond Debt is the End Game and we do not need to be indebting Solano for this much money.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • SavetheRepublicFebruary 26, 2013 - 8:13 am

    We really could use some more members of the Solano County Taxpayers Association. Especially younger members....any Poli Sci people out there? We can not make a difference without an increase in membership. Any retired people with time to spend researching the county and city budgets? We need you. For more information on joining the Taxpayers group, call Stephen Power at 448-3822 or Ourania Riddle at 678-9468. We are selective though and have to screen members for conflict of interests. But please check us out, we need citizens that care about Good Government.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Mr. PracticalFebruary 26, 2013 - 8:29 am

    Conceptually, this is a great project. Not taking advantage of the revenue generating potential of some of the most valuable I-80 corridor property in Northern California would be a travesty for Vallejo and Solano County.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • StRFebruary 26, 2013 - 8:43 am

    I may not know what I am talking about...But an example to look to would be the city of Vacaville's development of the Nut Tree Shopping Complex....Maybe someone should analyse this as an example....How much are we still paying in debt for this project? How much revenue for the city is it currently producing? Is the project currently in trouble?....Overall is property development the proper role for government?....The Fairgrounds project seems like another REDEVELOPMENT boondoggle.....Also look at the Mall in Fairfield how much are we still paying in debt on this as compared to how much revenue is being generated for the city?.....As far as the Fairgrounds project are we really going to shop and party our way out of a recession? Are there not already enough places to shop and party...maybe people can not afford to shop and party due to excessive government spending and shipping all the US jobs overseas. We need manufacturing jobs again.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • StRFebruary 26, 2013 - 8:49 am

    Like why can we not make our own underwear in this country? New Organization....Panties for Prosperity!

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  • Mr. PracticalFebruary 26, 2013 - 8:50 am

    The private sector would do the development. The infrastruture investment is well worth it if the projections are even close. If it weren't for the Solano Mall, Fairfield would be in much worse shape than they are. The Nut Tree was difficult timing but will be fine over the long haul. The economy issue, as history proves, will be temporary. The fairgrounds project will prove to be a boon, not a boondoogle.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • StRFebruary 26, 2013 - 9:00 am

    "New roads and other public infrastructure are needed to reshape the fairgrounds at a cost of $93.5 million, according to a fiscal report by Goodwin Consulting Group." We would be spending almost a Billion $ on this, have we lost all sense of proportion here?

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Rich GiddensFebruary 26, 2013 - 9:13 am

    So government spending creates jobs and a booming economy? Are you from California by any chance? LOL!

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Mr. PracticalFebruary 26, 2013 - 11:23 am

    Absolutely, when the investment has a postive ROI. How do you think your potential future homes of Texas and South Carolina attracted businesses. Infratructure and marketing investments. Spending needs to be cut from non revenue generating items.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • L.February 26, 2013 - 11:22 am

    No it's not. It's lipstick on a pig. Vallejo, and if the county has so much money to spare, should be investing in doing something with the empty buildings in town, like Mervyns, etc. No one is going to come to Vallejo when it's still a mess for a shopping mall.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Mr. PracticalFebruary 26, 2013 - 11:24 am

    L, the county has nothing to do with Mervyn's. It's in the incorporated city of Fairfield. Also, I don't believe it's empty.

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  • L.February 26, 2013 - 4:20 pm

    I'm talking about the Mervyn's in Vallejo, which has been empty for four years and is on a major thoroughfare which has a great many empty structures ready for some type of help. Putting another shopping mall on the fair grounds will just make the rest of Vallejo a neglected mess. The county should butt out and not spend money it doesn't have competing with private landowners in a failing market with outdated plans. Leave it as fair and manage it as a fair.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Solano Business IncubatorFebruary 26, 2013 - 1:22 pm

    Small businesses need help. Maybe some of the tax dollars could be used to help Solano Business Incubator. Just a thought. Did you know Solano Business Incubator is only funded with private funds?

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • StRFebruary 26, 2013 - 2:13 pm

    Quote.."Another 30 acres would become a year-round entertainment area that could include outdoor rides, much like an amusement park."....Six Flags Discovery Kingdom Vallejo is already located right across the street and I thought I heard it was struggling financailly. We need more rollercoasters....I think we are being taken for a ride already.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • StRFebruary 26, 2013 - 2:21 pm

    Quote..."Solano County’s annual fair would take place on 35 acres. Many of the existing fairgrounds buildings would be demolished and replaced".......annual fair, one week is it out of the year, all this money for one week out of the year and the hope that the exhibition hall would be rented out once in awhile, I should think we would be lucky if the rentals just cover utility and maintenance costs for this one building alone.....Compare to Farfield's City theater complex that just went under and is being taken over privately? All this money for a one week out of the year fair, and the attendance has not been good for years now.....Just use the Dixon facility, it puts on a nice fair every year.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • StRFebruary 26, 2013 - 2:27 pm

    We do have a very good County website....You can watch the hearing live...on video...right now....everyone turn on and tune in! You can also call it up later it is archived.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • StRFebruary 26, 2013 - 2:38 pm

    Repeat..I do like this county's website...www dot co dot solano dot ca dot us.....click on Board Meetings........See at the top - upcoming events...Click on In process for the embedded link to the in process meeting....later today to see the archive I believe it is "view event" for the embedded link.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • StRFebruary 26, 2013 - 2:46 pm

    I would like to see the Tea Parties involved in this also.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • StRFebruary 26, 2013 - 2:51 pm

    So tell me again how this is going to make money?... Really please explain this in detail....empty projections..."could generate" revenue.....Would this money benefit only certain contractors, and bond issuers, before it goes bust with the Taxpayers left owning only the debt?

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • StRFebruary 26, 2013 - 3:01 pm

    So what is the previous financial status of the fair...the real money figures, does the fair itself make money, break even, or lose money...consider also the maintenance costs during the year for the facility. It is only one week out of the year. Also won't current businesses that would relocate to the new facility just b vacating other properties they were already occupying, resulting in not much of a net gain in actual new businesses. Almost a BILLION....a BILLION....a BILLION for this.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • StRFebruary 26, 2013 - 3:07 pm

    Quote....."Solano County would issue certificates of participation bonds totaling $94 million, with the money to be repaid through property taxes, sales taxes, leases, fair revenues and other money generated by the project." Solano county would issue $94 Million in bonds?....How does this equate to the project being publicly financed, when in the end all this bond money has to be paid back with interest....Really explain to me how this is privately financed...is the true is that we hope and pray for the "projected revenues in the future" to pan out?...No guarentee here......How much could we just sell the land for?

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Who really pays?February 26, 2013 - 3:16 pm

    Quote....property taxes, sales taxes, leases, fair revenues....Who pays the property taxes?....does this equal the citizens...Who pays the sales taxes....does this equal the citizens.....Who pays to attend the fair...does this equal the citizens of Solano County....and only the ones that choose to participate...while those taxpayers who choose not to participate are still left having to pay the bill....benefits for a few?.....Debt Obligations for all County Taxpayers? Anoher thing who specifically is underwriting the BONDS....very important queston.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • StRFebruary 26, 2013 - 8:27 pm

    Another question the 4.4 Million plus the 93.5 Million does that include the interest on the Bonds?......What will be the interest rate on the BONDS?.....And once again what will be the on going maintenance costs..utilities ect once the project is built?

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Mr. PracticalFebruary 27, 2013 - 7:26 am

    The Board approved the project 5-0. Let's chat again in 25 years and see who was right.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • SavetheRepublicFebruary 27, 2013 - 7:44 am

    @ Practical....I thought you said you were voting for Gary Johnson the Libertarian candidate for president.....Libertarians are suppose to be for less government. Mr. Johnson as Governor of New Mexico reduced his states expenditures....Yet you seem to totally rubber stamp any local spending and taxation plans.....Did you fib about supporting Johnson?...You Sir Are No Libertarian.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Mr. PracticalFebruary 27, 2013 - 8:07 am

    That's really odd? If I go to the county's Website it says I'm a Libertarian. I registered as such because that party, and Johnson specifically, represents my point of view the best. And I do believe in a smaller governemnt federal government. The more decisions made at a local level, the better. The higher up the food chain we pay our taxes, the less bang for the buck. During difficult times like this, small businesses often make the mistake of cutting revenue generated expenses rather improving process and fixed expenses. Government should be no different. If a project has the potenial to provide a positive ROI and improve our quality life, than I'm all for it.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
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