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The following article was posted on July 16th, 2014, in the New Times - Volume 28, Issue 51 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from New Times [newtimesslo.com] - Volume 28, Issue 51

San Luis Obispo City Council approves a Laguna Lake conservation plan

BY KYLE MCCARTY

The video showed a happy boy, swimming in the waters of Laguna Lake. The colors were oversaturated, the picture grainy—the type of quality now most associated with Instagram.

But this was no social media post. It was a home video, recorded in the ’60s, that resident Brett Cross used to help convince the San Luis Obispo City Council to approve a plan to restore and preserve Laguna Lake.

“You don’t recognize how special a place is until you’ve lost it,” Cross said.

About 16 other people joined him in expressing support of the Laguna Lake Natural Reserve Conservation Plan. In fact, no one who spoke at the City Council’s July 15 meeting argued against the plan, and city councilmembers voted unanimously to adopt it. Councilmembers agreed with residents that the lake had been neglected for too long, and that now is the time to act.

The crux of the plan is to dredge the lake to greater depths, making it more accessible for recreational use. The plan also calls for ongoing management to prevent the lake from being clogged again by inflowing sediment.

However, executing the work in the plan is estimated to cost about $10 million over 10 years. In order to fund the work, city officials have floated proposals to use a combination of the city’s general fund and grants, as well as the possibility of establishing a special tax on citizens who live near the lake.

If a special district assessment wins approval, lakefront property owners could be asked to pay as much as $958 per year. Other property owners who live nearby, but not directly on the lake, might pay as much as $389 per year.

Some residents questioned why those living near the lake would be asked to pay more, pointing out that property owners near other city resources, such as Bishop Peak or the library, aren’t taxed for those benefits. Other speakers noted that people who live near the lake already pay more property tax.

The funding will likely be one of the most significant sticking points as the project moves forward. Residents and councilmembers split on who would be included in an assessment district, and even whether all property owners in the city might be asked to pay, though that idea didn’t gain much traction.