POMONA - City leaders gave approval this week to a proposal to issue up to $9.3 million in recovery zone facility bonds for the construction of a business center at Fairplex.

Council members voted 4-1-1 in favor of the proposal with Councilwoman Paula Lantz voting in opposition and Mayor Elliott Rothman abstaining. Rothman said after the meeting he abstained because he had just returned to the city late Sunday night from a trip to Alaska and "didn't get a chance to fully review" the matter.

Councilman Freddie Rodriguez was absent.

The proposed Fairplex Business Center, which must still go through the city's planning process, would involve converting six racing horse barns into an office, warehousing and light industrial center for about $6.9 million, according to a city staff report.

An additional six horse show barns would be converted into a self-storage facility for about $1.7 million.

The barns are near the Finish Line Sports Grill near Gate 12 along White Avenue.

Fairplex officials said such a project would not interfere with its ability to hold horse racing, horse training or horse shows or horse sales.

The Recovery Zone Facility Bonds were allocated to the city by the state as part of the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The city is eligible to issue the tax-exempt bonds to assist in carrying out projects that result in the creation of jobs and assist in economic recovery efforts.


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Community Development Director Raymond Fong told the council since the city's finances have prevented it from using the bonds so Cal Poly Pomona, the Pomona Unified School District and Fairplex were notified of their availability.

Only Fairplex expressed an interest in the bonds, Fong said.

During the meeting some of the council expressed concerns about the project and the use of the bonds.

"While I know we're not actually approving the project, I really am concerned about the nature of this development," Councilwoman Paula Lantz said.

Lantz said the bonds are meant to fund projects that will create jobs, and a self-storage facility would generate few of them.

Councilwoman Cristina Carrizosa agreed with Lantz and added that a self-storage facility didn't align with her image of Fairplex and would not result in jobs.

"Storage is going to be a building with not even one job there," she said.

Fairplex representatives said the self-storage facility is one-half of the proposed project.

Fairplex has about 1,500 horse stalls, a large number of which are not used, said Mike Seder, vice president of finance and chief financial officer of the Los Angeles County Fair Association.

Creating a self-storage facility would allow Fairplex to take some of the excess stalls and turn them into an income-producing facility, Seder said.

"These are opportunities for us," he said, but added, "I hear your concerns about the type of project."

As part of the office, light industrial and warehousing component of the project, Fairplex officials have talked with manufacturing entities interested in having training programs and possibly leasing space at the center, said Dwight Richards, vice president of operations for the Fair Association.

Such a use would fit in with the Fairplex Educational Foundation's Career & Technical Education Center program which has many classes meeting and using Fairplex facilities.

In addition, the office, light industrial and warehousing aspect of the proposed project would be able to accommodate retail opportunities, Richards said.

But Lantz said as far as she could tell the proposed project would likely not produce much in the way of taxes for the city and added the proposed project site is visible from White Avenue, a section of Fairplex that "has so much potential."

Carrizosa asked Fairplex representatives if they would consider building "something besides storage" on the site.

"We are constantly looking for retail opportunities," Seder said. "We've been out there, and it's been challenging."

Seder said he and other Fairplex representatives would do what they could to seek flexibility within the parameters set by the California Debt Limit Allocation Committee, which is overseeing the bond allocation.

After the meeting Seder said the state committee must still review Fairplex Business Center proposal.

Without Tuesday's hearing Fairplex would not be able to apply for the bonds, he said.

Should Fairplex receive the bonds, it would be responsible for repaying them. Also, Fairplex would pay the city a one-time fee of $20,000 to $40,000 for issuing the bonds, according to a city staff report.

Fairplex has submitted a preliminary application for a conditional use permit for the business center project, said Community Development Director Mark Lazzaretto.

It's estimated the earliest the proposed project would go before the Planning Commission would be November or December, he said.

monica.rodriguez@inlandnewspapers.com
909-483-9336