Monterey Downs is a proposal to build on several hundred acres of the former Ft. Ord. A significant portion of the acreage is in Seaside and a larger portion is currently in unincorporated Monterey County. Included in the proposal is a horse training and racing facility, a â€œhorse park,â€ retail and commercial facilities, a hotel and long-term lodging and hundreds of residential units.
Due to an Exclusive Negotiating Agreement (ENA) and a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) entered into with Monterey Downs a few years ago, the City of Seaside is moving forward with vetting the proposal through an Environmental Impact Report (EIR). The proposal may only turn into a development project after the EIR process is complete.
This process has taken at least two years longer than expected. The EIR was once again delayed in late summer 2014 and is now expected only to be acted on shortly after the November, 2014 election.
The EIR process should allow significant opportunity for the community to discuss the proposalâ€™s impacts (both good and bad). The final EIR will reflect the publicâ€™s comments along with expert analysis and will propose mitigations where possible and/or necessary. If the net total impact is positive, presumably the City will move forward with the proposal. If the net total impact is negative, presumably the City should abandon the proposal and seek out an alternative idea or leave the area undeveloped for an indefinite amount of time.
Unfortunately, there is significant evidence the currently seated council and Mayor will all vote to approve the Monterey Downs proposal regardless of EIR findings and forthcoming public testimony. The Seaside City councilâ€™s reluctance to accept and incorporate public input is described on the Accountability, Transparency and Engaging the Public page.
Whether one believes (in advance of the completed EIR) that the project is good or bad, certainly there will be significant impacts. I believe these impacts (good and/or bad) will affect the City of Seaside more than any other jurisdiction, and as a result championed the idea that if the proposal is developed and built that it become completely incorporated into the City of Seaside.
Both the County and Monterey Downs have agreed with my assessment and have agreed to the annexation. Indeed, Monterey Downs has submitted preliminary materials in support of such an annexation. This process will be led by LAFCO (the Local Agency Formation Commission). If there are no objections (particularly from the County), the annexation is expected to proceed quickly.
While I continue to support annexation should the proposal be deemed (by the community) to have merit, I have significant concerns with the Monterey Downs proposal in the first place.
There is not yet a publicly circulated economic analysis, but concerned residents and businesses have pointed out (with significant credibility) a number of very real concerns:
My appreciation and expression of these concerns are one of many reasons I have been endorsed by Monterey County Weekly, Monterey Bay Partisan, Seaside Concerned Democrats, the Monterey County Green Party, WaterPlus and Public Water Now.
Other than Jason Cambell and myself, Seaside politicians do not seem to want to even ask deep questions, much less admit there may be shortcomings in the Downs proposal. Once again, Seasideâ€™s policy makers seem to be shirking their official duties.
One main function of our elected representatives is to ask penetrating questions of proposals which will affect anyone in the community, let alone a large population.