Sonoma Raceway Proposes Use Permit Changes
Application would allow non-racing events, music festival
Sonoma Raceway is seeking changes to its use permit that would enable the facility to use its property for non-racing events, including a music festival and smaller social and fundraising events, while still maintaining strict limits on noise, event attendance and other factors impacting the surrounding region.
The new application will not propose any significant physical changes to the facility, but would redefine the raceway as a "special event and entertainment" facility. The current use permit and county general plan limit activity at the raceway to racing and related vehicle uses.
This application represents the raceway's first effort to make significant changes to its operating conditions in 17 years. The raceway last applied for a major permit revision in the spring of 1997, which resulted in the entitlements for a $100 million modernization of the facility's infrastructure and amenities.
Events at the raceway are governed by specific noise and attendance limits outlined in the existing use permit. This would continue to be the case under the proposed changes, although some categories and limits would be modified and consolidated. The net effect will be to allow for one additional major event weekend.
The current use permit reflects a rigid snapshot of activity at the raceway nearly two decades ago. These proposed revisions establish the flexibility for the raceway to function in a dynamic business environment and to continue as a major regional economic contributor, while maintaining reasonable limits on any disruptive impacts on the local community.
The most notable of the proposed changes would allow for a four-day music festival on the raceway grounds, utilizing existing seating and infrastructure, as well as the areas currently used for parking and camping. Although specific plans for the festival are not fully developed, the raceway envisions a Spring or Fall event featuring nationally-recognized artists presented in an environment that showcases Sonoma restaurants, wineries, arts and culture.
Other proposed changes include:
- Five additional days of camping in lots to the west-side (Lakeville Highway) of the facility to accommodate the music festival.
- Increased noise threshold for certain racing school programs 10 days per year
- Additional evening use of the main track for certain noise-controlled car programs
- Three additional days for non-racing promotional activities (e.g. pyrotechnics or jet flyovers)
- Development of a winery tasting room.
- Addition of lights to the karting facility and extended hours of operation to 10 p.m.
The raceway and its concert-promoter partner have committed to set aside a percentage of festival revenues, minimum of $200,000 per event, to be distributed to youth-serving non-profit groups in Sonoma County. In addition, raceway hospitality facilities will be made available for a variety of fund-raising and other community events.