After stepping away from the event this year, the Solvang City Council members decided at their meeting Monday night to submit an application for Solvang to return as a host city for a time trial in the 2013 Amgen Tour of California.

The city leaders made clear, though, that this would not be business as usual.

After hearing complaints regarding the event from city residents, as well as noting the increasing demands being placed on the host cities by AEG Sports, which owns and operates the bicycle tour, the council members said that changes would be necessary for the time trial to return to Solvang for a fifth time.

In an effort to save money, the city is applying for a midweek date – sometime in mid-May – rather than the more costly weekend trial. The city has yet to dip into its general fund to pay for the event, as the necessary funding has been raised in the past by the organizing committee. This year, however, AEG is asking that the city provide all traffic control and law enforcement for the entire route, something that had been handled by AEG in the past, in addition to providing about 400 hotel rooms for the day before and the day of the event.

“I’m concerned with the demands made by AEG,” mayor Jim Richardson said. “Every year it gets to be more stringent. I think that they’re reaching out and asking for too much more every time that they request our help. We have the jewel of probably the country here in the Valley for bicycle racing. That should count as something in our favor to where we’d have more of a say in the way that we accept the contract with them.”

A few residents in attendance made clear that they weren’t in favor of the event returning. Each of the three residents who spoke before the council live on Ballard Canyon Road, which has been shut down for up to eight hours on race days in previous years. As if the inconvenience wasn’t enough, the residents said they also had to deal with not-so-friendly race officials.

“The Amgen Tour is the rudest bunch of people I’ve come across,” said Rod Simmons, who added that he caught a Tour worker urinating behind a pillar on his property. “In a time when the economy is what it is, for us to raise money to have them come here I think is totally crazy. Please, re-think this.”

Resident Richard Layman was even more pointed in his comments.

“We have the Gestapo agents posted at the edge of our driveway threatening us and being uncongenial,” he said, “but it goes much deeper than that. The time trials beget ancillary events and use of the road, so that the road is really overused by bicyclists.”

Layman noted that the lack of access to child care and mail delivery were just a couple of the problems presented by the road closures, in addition to the difficulty that would be faced if an emergency were to arise. “It impacts our daily lifestyle much more than you would be willing to accept if it did the same to you,” he told the council.

Resident Chip Orton said he wasn’t necessarily against the race coming back to Solvang, but he would like to see it change routes if it does.

“The people [Amgen race officials] are not very polite, nor are they gracious,” he said. “They were very rude, and it wasn’t a good way to handle it. If you are going to do this, I wish that you’d do it in another location. Let’s share some of the fun with the city of Solvang, and shut off those roads for four to five hours and see what happens.”

The council members were in agreement that a change in the route from previous races would probably be beneficial. Although the application is due to AEG on Friday, Aug. 17, the city leaders decided to leave some aspects of their bid open-ended.

“I’d be in favor of not delineating exactly what the route is going to be at this point, and just tell them that we’ll give them 25 miles, or whatever they demanded, and go from there,” councilwoman Joan Jamieson said. Richardson said that he was also interested in addressing some of the concerns of the residents with the race officials before agreeing to any proposal.

“I’m disappointed to hear about the rudeness of the road marshals,” he said. “That’s abhorrent and it shouldn’t be tolerated. I think it should be a part of our bid that we have a better public relations effort with the road marshals and the people that they deal with.”

While AEG has already outlined its proposal, city attorney Roy Hanley pointed out that Solvang is not bound to those terms. Across the board, the council members seemed in agreement that changes would need to be made for the time trial to return to the Valley.

“Submit the bid, but make certain that we do not have to accept their counter-offer in any way,” councilman Ken Palmer said in driving home that point.

Also on Monday’s agenda was a potential amendment of the municipal code to allow for citizens living outside the city limits to serve on the Board of Architectural Review, Parks and Recreation Commission and Planning Commission.

The proposal was borne out of a lack of participation from city residents on those committees. Despite that, council members were in agreement that such an amendment would not be in the best interest of the city and no action was taken on it.

“If we look harder, we’ll find somebody,” councilman Hans Duus said.

willis@syvjournal.com