By Marshall Kelsay
After reading your editorial of “A Sound Investment,” I felt I had just read an obituary for the Barona Noise & Pollution Action Committee. Before you issue a death certificate, I would ask you and others to wait for a secondary autopsy, one which is based on all the facts.
Your article seemed to parallel the response the Sentinel received from Barona’s Chairman, Edwin “Thorpe” Romero, and I couldn’t help but notice your bias toward the tribe, taking into consideration data which you obviously have not personally reviewed.
As Paul Harvey would say, “and now for the rest of the story.”
I, like many others, purchased a home in the San Diego Country Estates in 1989, because it was beautiful, peaceful and a great place to raise my children. At that time I’m sure I received a disclosure as to the “mini motocross” track and my observations thereafter found it to be a small, occasionally annoying venue catering to youngsters riding 50cc mini bikes. It sounded like bees, occurred once or twice a month, and for the most part it appeared to be a nice pastime for youths.
The drag strip and paintball park which you and Mr. Romero failed to address were not present and were built long after our neighborhood was built out. To compare any of these venues which provide a PASTIME for private individuals to an airport, which serves a large common public interest, is quite a stretch.
In 2009, the Barona Oaks Raceway underwent a major overhaul including a new well, additional fencing, restrooms, redesigned tracks, new equipment and track groomers were instituted which had been in the works for the previous two years. Along with the drag strip and paintball park, these venues now brought a new or more intensive noise and air pollution to our neighborhood, operating at least five days a week. Which brings into question Chairman Romero’s representation, that the motocross track “is enjoyed mainly by youngsters 18 and under.” Should we assume that all those riders out there Wednesday through Friday during school hours are either home schooled or delinquents?
This situation was brought to the attention of Chairman Romero and the tribe in a very respectful manner and they were asked to consider the fact that, when either the motocross or drag strip are operating, residents can’t open their windows, enjoy their yards and are unable to even sell their homes because of the noise and air pollution created by grading equipment, motorcycles, dragsters, public address systems, sirens from emergency responders to include life flight helicopters.
The County of San Diego conducted an extensive study of the problem detailed in their report dated Oct. 4, 2007, of which a copy is available on our Web site sdcefamiles.org. As noted in their comprehensive report, the venues in question have been placed in an amphitheater and the placement of trees or sound attenuation barriers will not be an effective solution to resolve the noise and air issues. Many of the 200 homes affected have replaced their windows with triple pane glass which has somewhat partially alleviated the interior noise but still not to a normal level.
Let me be perfectly clear. We are asking that these venues be relocated out of earshot of our families, not closed, unless there is no other alternative. As noted by Chairman Romero’s response, the tribe is aware of this problem, however doesn’t want any of these venues near their common area, homes, casino, hotel or golf course because these areas are “culturally sensitive” and without question would be found to be as obnoxious and intolerable to them as they are to us. So why is their neighborhood culturally sensitive and not ours, especially considering our population dwarfs the total population of that of the tribes?
The next interesting point made by yourself and Chairman Romero is that we should be responsible for the deflection of the noise and air pollution created on the reservation.
Isn’t that like telling a neighbor that they need to build a fence to keep my dog out of their yard? In the United States, we are governed by laws at the local, state and federal levels and, regrettably, we rely on our public officials to enforce those laws when citizens ignore or disrespect them or wish to hide behind the shield of sovereignty. We have sought federal, state and county help in dealing with an unacceptable interference in our quality of life and our Constitutional right to enjoy our property as anyone would.
The tribe obviously does not have the right as a sovereign nation to pollute its neighbors.
Pollution, when it comes in the form of sound or exhaust in an excessive and unwanted manner, should be regulated. So what federal regulation does the tribe meet and where do the residents affected by this nuisance turn to for a resolution? The tribe’s insistence that the homeowners build sound walls at their own expense is ludicrous, and California has an obligation to stop cross-border pollution and defend its sovereignty. No entity within the borders of a sovereign state or across borders of sovereign states has the right to pollute.
I hope and would like to believe that the tribe, like us, desires to live in harmony with each other. We would like to once again establish a business relationship with Barona and again become active participants in all the wonderful events and venues Barona has to offer. We would like to return to buying our gas, dining out, gambling and playing golf at the Barona Resort. That, however, won’t happen until we can simply enjoy our own homes, which are the biggest investment we have.
Our neighborhood is made up of various individuals at various stages of life, just like those who live on the reservation. Young couples with newborns, police and firefighters who work nights and sleep days, retired folks who enjoy gardening or just reading a book on their patio. Those who enjoy playing golf in a quiet setting and those who are recovering from medical conditions or living out the last few days of their lives simply wanting to enjoy the peace and quiet their home should afford.
In closing I would ask that you and Barona search inside your souls and think what it might be like for you and your families to live next to these venues. Even if this was the only area available on the Barona Indian Reservation to host the events in question, I believe that you would agree that it still wouldn’t be the neighborly or right thing to do.
I hope that we can come together and resolve this issue so all of us can reach out to one another in a manner of respect, appreciation and caring.
Please don’t list our organization in your obituary column just yet. You must consider that, when you have a half million to million dollar investment you can’t enjoy and you can’t sell, you can’t expect our efforts to halt until the noise and air pollution does.
Marshall Kelsay is chairman of the Barona Noise & Pollution Action Committee.