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Councilman says ‘land swap’ rumor is just that

DEL MAR — A rumor that the city was negotiating a deal with North County Transit District that would provide easier access from a proposed temporary train platform to the Del Mar Fairgrounds is just that, Councilman Carl Hilliard said.
More than two dozen residents attended the Nov. 8 council meeting to address an item under Council Priorities — Reports that called for a “Discussion regarding the Recycle Lot leased to Waste Management by NCTD, and the possible reassignment of the Lease.”
Neighbors for a Transit Solution is a group of residents opposed to building the temporary train stop about a half-mile south of the fairgrounds and just east of the beach colony community in the 21st to 24th Street area.
Jeff Weitzen, speaking on behalf of the group, said an unconfirmed rumor was circulating that NCTD needed an easily accessible route to get people from the proposed train stop to the fairgrounds.
“They can’t get there from NCTD property because in between is the Department of Public Works,” Weitzen said.
“We heard there was a possibility NCTD would give the city the old recycling lot in return for right-of-way access to the fairgrounds,” he said.
When asked if that rumor were true, Hilliard said, “No, it’s not. There is no deal.”
A panhandle-shaped lot at 2265 Jimmy Durante Blvd. is owned by NCTD. Waste Management leased the property for its recycling center, but that facility closed in August. A small corner of the lot is owned by the city.
Hilliard said he put the item on the Nov. 8 agenda because there was “interest from third parties to lease the lot,” although he said he “would rather not” specifically identify who was interested.
“It’s the entryway to the city,” he said. “I don’t want to see it used, for example, for parking for tow trucks.
“I was trying to find a creative way to secure that lot,” Hilliard said. “I wanted to save that little piece of land for Del Mar. I was trying to get a sense of what the community wants to do with it and how important it is.”
The item was pulled from the agenda, presumably because there were too many unanswered questions to adequately address the issue, Hilliard said.
The city is currently leasing the lot from NCTD on a month-to-month basis for what Hilliard described as “a minimal amount.” As far as the city possibly buying the lot, he said he was told “NCTD doesn’t sell property.”
At the council meeting one week later, Betsy Winsett, speaking on behalf of Neighbors for a Transit Solution, said opposition to the platform is “strong and it’s growing.”
“Once people are made aware of the plan they’re eager to voice their opposition by signing the petition,” she said.
Her group has been circulating a petition opposing the proposal. Winsett said in one week, the number of signatures increased 33 percent to nearly 400.
“It is our intention to fight this project, hopefully with your support, until it’s fully abandoned,” she said to council members. “This platform is ill-conceived, will not meet its objectives and will significantly damage our small community.”
She said the proposed benefits to the city — reducing traffic and lowering greenhouse gas emissions — are unrealistic. She described the negative impacts — increased train noise, pollution, safety issues with people illegally crossing the tracks and possible damage to the lagoon — as “numerous and onerous.”
NCTD claims the platform will increase ridership, get people out of their cars and decrease traffic and pollution by providing better, more direct access to fairgrounds activities. District officials said the location is ideal because double tracking needed for a train stop is already in place.