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Fair board takes no action on expanding JPA; announces settlement to lawsuit

DEL MAR — The 22nd District Agricultural Association board of directors didn’t say yes, but they didn’t say no either to a request from San Diego County Board Supervisor Dave Roberts to expand a proposed joint powers authority with the county to include representatives from Del Mar, Solana Beach and the city of San Diego. 

First and foremost, Roberts said at the May 7 22nd DAA meeting, he would like representatives from those three cities that are most impacted by the Del Mar Fairgrounds to have voting seats. But he acknowledged that likely won’t happen in the near future.

So he asked the governor-appointed board to consider making them ex-officio, nonvoting members of the group, noting it is a model used successfully throughout the county.

“As we go forward, if you would consider (that) I would certainly appreciate it,” Roberts, a former member of the Solana Beach City Council, said.

In an April 30 letter to fair board President Adam Day, Roberts wrote that an expanded JPA would go a long way toward achieving regional governance of the state-owned fairgrounds, which is managed by the 22nd DAA and home to more than 350 annual events, including the county fair and thoroughbred races.

“Without question, these cities experience some economic benefits of the fairgrounds, but strongly feel the brunt of fairgrounds’ traffic, noise and other impacts,” Roberts wrote. He added that adding three nonvoting seats “would provide an equitable and legal compromise at this time.”

Day has been working with county officials since late last year to form a partnership between the two agencies to provide more local control over the 340-acre site.

County supervisors unanimously directed staff at the April 23 meeting to move the plan forward and come back, perhaps as early as next month, with a draft proposal.

The proposed JPA would include the current nine-member 22nd DAA board and five representatives from the county, either the supervisors or their appointees.

At the April meeting, Roberts suggested adding ex-officio members from the three cities. According to state law, say many attorneys, agricultural districts can only enter into partnerships such as a joint powers authority with counties, not cities.

Day said when he first heard Roberts’ recommendation he agreed to “give it serious consideration.” He said the concept is “extremely valuable, but I wouldn’t want it to be a stumbling block.”

Director Ruben Barrales said he was open to the concept but recommended having one ex-officio member rather than three because “it can get unwieldy to have a large board.”

Fred Schenk, vice president of the 22nd DAA, had concerns about meeting a quorum for votes with such a large group, but Roberts said ex-officio members don’t count toward the quorum.

In the end, Day said nothing had to be decided that day and he and his colleagues agreed to table the topic until a future, unspecified meeting.

The night before, at the Del Mar City Council meeting, officials in that city said they are preparing for the next step if they don’t get seats on the proposed JPA.

Councilwoman Lee Haydu said she is seeking letters of support for seats from area agencies such as the Sierra Club, San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy and San Dieguito River Park JPA.

Mayor Terry Sinnott suggested the three cities form an advisory board to provide input. He called that “Plan B that hasn’t been discussed.”

“We’re going to be a team outside,” Sinnott said.

In other fairgrounds news, Director David Watson announced the lawsuit filed against the 22nd DAA by the Sierra Club has been settled, ending all litigation against the district.

The Sierra Club filed a lawsuit in response to a 2011 environmental impact report for expansion plans at the fairgrounds.

The agricultural district was ordered by the judge to reanalyze traffic impacts, water supply and climate change.

A separate lawsuit filed by the San Dieguito River Park JPA, Del Mar and Solana Beach was settled last year. Watson said in that settlement the district already agreed to conduct analyses similar to what the judge in the Sierra Club case ordered so they will complete the mitigation at the same time.