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 [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.