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Plan to hold concerts at Santa Maria Raceway raising noise concerns for some neighbors

santa maria raceway
Dave Alley/KEYT

NIPOMO, Calif. -- The owners of the Santa Maria Raceway/Stadium 805 have applied to hold up to six concerts at the venue next year.

On Tuesday, the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors will discuss the plan and consider approving a Temporary Commercial Outdoor Entertainment License application.

On the Board of Supervisors agenda report, it states owner Nicholas Duggan has applied to hold up to six one-day events with up to 3,500 attendees on dates uncertain in the 2021 calendar year.

"We're going before the Board to state our case that we can do these shows safely and be a good neighbor and do basically what we have been doing for decades," said David Castaneda, Raceway General Manager/Event Director.

According to Castaneda, should the application be denied, the decision would jeopardize the future of all events at the track.

"The danger of being denied to continue to operate as we have is that, if we're only limited to doing racing events, that is really going to put this facility in danger," said Castaneda. "In today's environment, you can't operate a facility like this with only one type of entertainment. "

The Nipomo track has hosted auto racing more than 50 years, but has also held many non-racing events over the years.

"We have been operating under the same use permits since the 1980's," said Castaneda. "I've been here since 2004, but all the previous promoters have always done non-racing events without pulling permits from the county. Since I've been here, we've done a number of non-racing events, including color runs, concerts, festivals, other non-racing events, monster trucks, without having to pull permits and without any problem with the county."

While those who operate the facility hope to continue with musical performances, some in the nearby neighborhood are expressing frustration.

"You can hear that music for miles at some points in time," said Jeff Reible, who lives near the stadium. "You literally can't sit in your backyard without the music blasting away. Our weekends are our weekends too. They are basically taken away from us."

Reible added that he isn't opposed to the racing, and like the rest of the residents in the area, he moved into the community well aware his home was located close to a race track.

"That's not an issue," said Reible. "The issue we've been having is the concerts. The concerts have been coming fairly regularly before the pandemic and there seemed to be no control, of volume, cars, how late the concert went on."

He's stressed noise levels were far too high for what should be allowed in the area.

"We've done some decibel readings up here and it's in the high 80's and 90's a quarter of a mile away from the track," said Reible. "We have to stay in the house to not hear it non-stop, and if the wind happens to be blowing towards the ocean, it's twice as bad."

Reible added the ongoing noise may drive his property value down an estimated 10 percent.

He also expressed significant concern about public safety during musical events, pointing out traffic issues, especially since there is only one access road to the community.

"It's not safe for our community," said Reible. "We have people with medical conditions. We have older people and if there is some kind of an emergency people are not going to get in or out. Our road will be blocked and there will no way for us to get help if we need it, a fire, an emergency of any kind."

Castaneda said stadium ownership and management is hoping to find solutions that are beneficial to both sides.

"We've always been willing with whatever entity with the homeowners association to mitigate those different problems," said Castaneda. "We have been doing these types of events for decades and we've never had a problem with it and it's only been recently when we had a new neighborhood move in right behind us that this became any type of an issue at all."

The Board of Supervisors is expected to make a decision on the Temporary Commercial Outdoor Entertainment License application at its meeting Tuesday afternoon.

Should Stadium 805 receive its license, it's unknown when any future concert would be allowed to take place.

Due to current COVID-19 restrictions, all large scale entertainment events, such as concerts, are prohibited.

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