Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Crucial Report on Dixon Downs

Crucial Report on Dixon Downs
Racetrack Analysis Completed
By Melissa Murphy/Staff Writer

A proposed horse racetrack and entertainment center in Dixon would have unavoidable impacts on the city, but concerns about traffic, air pollution, water and other issues are matters to be dealt with by the City Council as it moves closer to a final decision on the proposal.

Those are some of the findings of a final environmental impact report on the proposed Dixon Downs development. The report now is available for public review.

But city leaders say they have no intention of jumping the gun on Dixon Downs, a thoroughbred racehorse and training facility, retail, hotel and conference center development proposed by Magna Entertainment Corp. for 260 acres in northeast Dixon. The final EIR, they note, is but the next step in review for the proposed track.

City leaders, project proponents, opponents and local citizens are digging into the 4-inch thick document, saying they believe it is thorough, but that they need more time to review its findings.

The final EIR consists of a draft report released last year as well as written comments received from agencies and individuals, and responses to those comments.

Among the agencies to submit comments were the California Regional Water Quality Control Board, Assemblywoman Lois Wolk, the Army Corps of Engineers, Public Utilities Commission, California Integrated Waste

Management Board, California Highway Patrol, California Department of Transportation, Yolo-Solano Air Quality Management District and a host of others.

In the area of transportation, concerns about traffic impacts in the city were expressed by state highway officials, in particular the CHP, which noted the Dixon Downs development and proposed Milk Farm development would require additional officers and vehicles to be brought on board. The EIR response says the Dixon City Council will consider that issue as it decides on Dixon Downs.

In addition, the final report acknowledges that impacts on certain intersections would have to be dealt with before the project could be built.

In the area of impacts on air, the EIR notes that during construction air quality standards of the Yolo-Solano Air Quality Management District would be exceeded. It says those issues will have to be forwarded to the Council for consideration.

As for water issues, the EIR notes some concerns about increased use and also notes that the Council will have to weigh those issues in deciding on the Dixon Downs complex.

"The final EIR is just a response to the comments made by the public," explained John O'Farrell, local project manager for the proposed facility. "We plan to show that the project is environmentally superior."

With more than a month until the first meetings on the EIR in September, city leaders say they are using various strategies to tackle the lengthy document.

Planning Commissioner Yvonne McCluskey said she has spent the last few weeks gathering notes and letters that she has received personally to make sure she has all the information before the public review process gets under way.

Councilman Michael Smith said taking the time out of a busy schedule to read hundreds of pages is not an easy thing to do.

"It took me 16 hours to read the draft," Smith said. "I'm guessing it's going to take an entire weekend to read through the final EIR for the first time."

Some points of interest for Smith are the response to the traffic concerns as well as drainage.

O'Farrell believes that as they delve into the document, city leaders and others will find that Dixon Downs "is a good project that will give Dixon lasting benefits."

One thing for sure is that the Planning Commission and City Council will continue to listen to constituents, according to Vice Mayor Gil Vega.

"We get contacted more than people think," he said. "It's time to make an informed decision. The developer has waited a long time and we owe them an answer."

Melissa Murphy can be reached at

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