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Atascadero: Soon to be even bigger 

The Atascadero City Council has voted to move forward with a land annexation that will increase the city’s total area by 20 percent.

The historic Eagle Ranch, which sits southwest of Atascadero and spans from the city’s border to the Los Padres National Forest, will come out of protection under the open-space-preserving Williamson Act in 2009. City officials want to make sure that when it does come out of protection it will be officially recognized as part of the city, and thus subject to its building and planning ordinances. The council approved the action on May 27.

In total, the ranch is about 7,000 acres, and half of that is considered within the city’s sphere of influence. In fact, the ranch includes about 450 historic lots, which are considered part of the original Atascadero colony.

The other half will remain under the county’s control and would become a nature preserve if current negotiations between the SLO Land Conservancy and the Smith family, who own the ranch, are successful. The entire plot of land has been a working cattle ranch and de facto wildlife refuge for more than 40 years and, according to the Land Conservancy, has notable water resources, including the headwaters of Atascadero Creek.

The project is in the earliest stages of planning, according to Deputy Director of Community Development Steve McHarris.

The project will have to get an Environmental Impact Report, as well as a land plan before it can be annexed, but the basic concept includes 452 homes as well as a likely hotel, spa, restaurant, and equestrian center. McHarris said that the development would probably have to be completed in several phases. The cattle ranch is expected to stay intact and functional.

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