“Maybe we’ll finally get that racetrack,” someone said.

They were commenting on the possibility of running utilities to the Yuba County Sports and Entertainment Zone, and alluding to the idea put forth some years ago about building a big-time auto racing facility.

It was an idea that never materialized but made people think more clearly about the possibilities for that land out at Highway 65 and Forty Mile Road. Whatever was built there would have the advantage of the nearby populations of Yuba-Sutter and the greater Sacramento region. 

Then along came the recession.

We don’t know if there’s any glimmer of hope for a racetrack, but there sure is hope for other businesses.

All there was in the zone for years was the Toyota Amphitheatre -- a great facility for concerts, and put to too little use. Now there’s the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Sacramento at Fire Mountain -- new neighbor to the concert site.  The addition of Hard Rock, which opened just a couple months ago, is big ... it’s going to draw major attention to that zone -- it already has.

But further development is still going to depend on a few things.

One of the main reasons cited for the slow development (other than that major recession we suffered  a decade ago) is that the area lacks infrastructure to support new businesses of any size or impact. 

There’s hope that problem will be solved. The Olivehurst Public Utility District is in the process of annexing that land into the district, and would then design and install water and sewer infrastructure for the area.

It’s a logical and necessary next step. 

The Yuba Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCo -- the local agency in charge of approving annexations) will take up the subject in January. In the meantime, OPUD is conducting a wastewater study to figure out the most efficient route  from the zone to the the OPUD wastewater plan and potable water system.

John Tillotson, general manager of OPUD, said that ideally they’d have the lines extended by the end of 2021. 

Costs for such a project would run in the $33 million to $40 million range, he said in a recent Appeal story. It would have been hard to consider spending that sort of money a little while ago ... who knew how such a gamble would end up? But since the casino, things have changed. It seems like a pretty good bet, now, that there would be a positive return on investment.

The zone was established in 1998 and involves about a thousand acres.

It’s been reported that the county has been receiving more inquires from developers in the past year than all the previous decade -- organizations interested in building gas stations, restaurants, lodging facilities... they’re interested, it’s reported, but shy of making a move without some infrastructure in place.

LAFCo will discuss the annexation proposal at its Jan. 8 meeting. Here’s hoping it goes well.

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