Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Racetrack Report Set for Release

Article Last Updated: Wednesday, Aug 10, 2005 - 11:38:20 pm PDT

Racetrack report set for release
By Claire St. John

DIXON - Two horse tracks, a finish line pavilion and entertainment destination as well as living quarters for 1,656 horses and the people who tend them will certainly affect the environment of Dixon, where the 260-acre Dixon Downs project is proposed.

The project's Environmental Impact Report, a document required by the state that is necessary before the City Council can approve or deny the project, is due to be released in draft form within the next two weeks.

The report was first due out in February, but has been pushed back a number of times because, city staff said, Dixon is doing a thorough job of looking at every part of the project and how it will affect the city.

"I can remember telling people at the Dixon May Fair that (the report) would be ready the 20th of May, and now we're talking about the 20th of August," said Don Erickson, a representative of Magna Entertainment Corp., the company proposing the complex.

But the city's not just waiting for the review to be completed, Economic Development Director Marshall Drack said. It's also commissioned a financial report, a cultural report, a public outreach report and an information binder filled with the public's questions and the city's attempt to answer them. The extra reports aren't required by the state, but the project is controversial enough that Dixon residents appreciate the high level of information, Drack said.

"The point is we want everybody to have access to everything," Drack said. "It's a package we want available so if there's a question that comes up, hopefully we've already covered it."

Magna - which owns the land to the northeast of the city and wants to build California's first racetrack since the early 1900s there - also appreciates peoples' right to know. But the time and money spent on so many extra reports doesn't please the multibillion dollar company.

"This has been a highly contentious effort between us and Magna," Drack said. "They're kicking and screaming. They're having to spend their money to look at every possible conceivable aspect."

"It is borderline onerous," Erickson said of the city's long process. "But you don't want to jeopardize anything by hurrying it. The important thing is it will all be there when we unveil it."

Once the draft environmental report is released, the public will have an opportunity to question it. Questions and responses are included in the final report which the council must approve. If it does, the project will go to the Planning Commission.

That part of the process, Drack said, is still months away.

The city shouldn't drag its feet deciding on the second biggest opportunity they've gotten in a century, said Erickson, a former mayor of Dixon.

"The last big opportunity Dixon had was 100 years ago with the University (of California, Davis)," he said. The university considered several cities, including Dixon and Woodland, before settling on Davis.

"You've got to be careful and you've got to follow the rules and all that, but an opportunity like this for a community only comes along once in a while. The rest of the world isn't as cautious as Dixon is being."

Reach Claire St. John at or 747-8057.

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