DEL MAR — A settlement agreement announced two months ago by the 22nd District Agricultural Association between that agency, Del Mar, Solana Beach and the San Dieguito River Park Joint Powers Authority has been rejected, the board of directors announced in an April 13 press release.Since June 2011, the 22nd DAA board, which governs the Del Mar Fairgrounds, has been negotiating with the two cities and the JPA to settle a lawsuit over an environmental impact report the board certified in April 2011 for expansion plans at the state-owned facility.
In February, board President Adam Day announced the board unanimously approved settlement terms that had already been agreed on by all four agencies. Details have yet to be made available because nothing has been finalized, however, the terms included significant modifications to the fairgrounds master plan, the press release states.
A draft proposal given to the 22nd DAA on April 6 and presented to the board during its April 10 closed-session meeting “did not reflect the settlement terms that had been negotiated by the parties,” according to the press release.
“Instead, the draft proposed settlement agreement reflected that the City of Del Mar has dramatically changed the previously agreed upon terms,” it states.
Day described the new terms as “onerous, punitive and unreasonable.” The press release states that counsel for Del Mar was informed of the board’s rejection of the new terms.
“We agreed to the deal points offered by Del Mar,” Day said. “The settlement is completely different and completely out of whack with the deal points we agreed to.
“We approved those in good faith,” he said. “They pulled the rug out from under us. We had no choice but to reject it. We’ve worked hard to turn over a new leaf. We bent over backwards to offer many benefits to the city and its residents.
“For this to occur in the 11th hour is really a slap in the face, and the county will suffer,” Day said. “We would have preferred to negotiate rather than litigate but it appears they would rather litigate.”
Del Mar Mayor Carl Hilliard, an attorney, disagreed.
“This is not an unusual process,” he said. “We’re following the normal path of negotiations. You start with a general agreement and then work down to the details.
“We will sit down and talk through it and work out the more complex issues to find middle ground,” Hilliard said. “We obviously thought we weren’t changing the deal. I’m not terribly upset.”
Hilliard noted that Day and his colleague, David Watson, also an attorney, recently worked out an agreement with the California Coastal Commission that was much more complex.
“They are very good negotiators,” Hilliard said of Day and Watson. “I’m pretty confident we’ll get this done. This is a bump in the road and we’ll work it out.”
“It’s more like a sinkhole,” Day said. “We have a fiduciary responsibility to negotiate in the best interests of everyone. We thought we did that. They changed the deal in the middle of the night.
“That’s not fair or right,” Day said. “We volunteered to cooperate on multiple issues beyond the scope of the master plan.
“In my opinion, a deal’s a deal,” he said. “You don’t go back and change it unilaterally. That’s what Del Mar has done. We were shocked and dismayed.”
Day said he has no plans to continue negotiating. “The negotiations were concluded in February,” he said. “All four parties agreed on the deal points.”
Day said in six weeks he and Watson settled 12 years of “contentious and bitter legal disputes” with the Coastal Commission over a variety of alleged violations on the property.
“We’ve been negotiating a far less significant and far less reaching agreement with Del Mar for eight months and we still aren’t there,” he said.
Day said if Del Mar officials are willing to abide by the terms of the original agreement he would return to the table.
The 22nd DAA has been working with Del Mar on a new fire station lease and recently agreed to collaborate with the city to possibly help meet its affordable housing requirements. The board was also working with Del Mar and Solana Beach on plans to mitigate traffic, noise and other impacts the fair has on its neighboring residents and businesses.
Those cooperative efforts are now “at risk,” according to the press release.
“Given this is still a closed-session item, there is nothing I can say at this time,” Solana Beach City Councilwoman Lesa Heebner said. “However, you will hear from our council in the near future.”