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The following article was posted on June 20th, 2013, in the New Times - Volume 27, Issue 47 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from New Times [newtimesslo.com] - Volume 27, Issue 47

Pismo punts on Spanish Springs, again

BY PATRICK M. KLEMZ

After a fourth grueling public hearing on June 18, Pismo Beach decided again to wait on moving forward with the proposed 961-acre Spanish Springs housing development.

The City Council considered a preliminary plan to allow development firm West Coast Housing Partners to build a mixed bag of 609 housing units, a 150-room hotel, a conference center, a nine-hole golf course, and various other recreation facilities on four Price Canyon properties. However, at the end of a long meeting that didn’t conclude until around midnight, the council simply voted 4-1 to certify the project’s Environmental Impact Report and directed West Coast to coordinate with another Price Canyon project farther along the approval pipeline.

A large crowd of mostly opponents gathered to provide input on the project. Local opposition to Spanish Springs began long before a 3-2 recommendation by the city Planning Commission to proceed with the project set off the recent series of interminable council hearings.

“This is probably the biggest project that Pismo Beach has ever seen,” resident Andrew Jones said at the latest hearing. “I find it very interesting that half the Planning Commission didn’t recommend this.”

Opponents cited the local scarcity of fresh water and Spanish Springs’ heavy reliance on a narrow and steep segment of Highland Drive as reasons to deny approval.

“I would not want this to become another Orange County or San Diego with traffic, traffic, traffic,” Pismo Heights resident Bob Lever said. “I wish they would spread it out and slow down.”

West Coast representative Steve Hester responded that the project will not put an undue burden on existing streets or strain Pismo’s water supply. He also challenged claims by some opponents that the project will cost the city more in services provided to new residents than Spanish Springs will bring in.

“It is not a plan that will place a fiscal burden on current residents,” Hester said.

The other Price Canyon developer that the council directed West Coast to coordinate with is Darren Shetler. He wants to build 370 housing units, a 175-room hotel, and an event center on his 258-acre Big Bird Ranch, which he recently renamed Pismo Ranch.

Shetler became an odd bedfellow with opponents of Spanish Springs when, according to the Tribune, he sent a recent letter asking the city to hold off on West Coast’s plans until the two developers could study the cumulative impacts of developing Price Canyon.

Members of Save Price Canyon told New Times in April they weren’t wild about Big Bird either, but conceded that the plan makes more sense for the area, particularly with regard to traffic.

If the council ever adopts the Spanish Springs plan, the project would still need the approval of the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO), which must sign off on all annexations in San Luis Obispo County.

Pismo Community Development Director Jon Biggs said he expects it will be a while before LAFCO receives something to consider.

One major difference between this Pismo annexation proposal and another denied by LAFCO last year is Spanish Springs will pay to upgrade the wastewater facility to brace for the impact of new development. West Coast would only receive a refund if future development projects benefit from, and kick in for, the upgrade.