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Beechwood development inches forward in Paso Robles 

An incoming housing development project has moved one step forward to adding a new neighborhood to eastern Paso Robles.

The Paso Robles City Council held a public workshop on Oct. 29 to discuss elements of the Beechwood Specific Plan, hearing from the applicant and city residents.

The project originally proposed 674 homes, which was consistent with the city’s General Plan. The applicant then resubmitted a plan that involved 1,011 homes—since reduced to 963—which would require a General Plan amendment.

Some of the discussion hinged on potential impacts brought by a nearly 50 percent increase in the amount of planned homes.

“All of us bought our property and there were 600 homes slated to go in, we knew that,” Robin Todd, a resident of a nearby housing development, told the council. “But now there are 1,000 homes, which is a bit concerning.”

The project would sit between Creston Road, Meadowlark, and a planned southern extension of Airport Road—an area with an already high level of traffic. According to the design, houses would face inward, with their backs to walls blocking out the nearby larger streets. Smaller streets would connect the homes within the walls. Many lot sizes would be 50-by-100 feet, a density higher than what Paso Robles residents are generally used to.

The applicant said that such a density would allow for more houses, generating money to help the developers pay for their share of infrastructure improvements. It would also create a larger range of affordability.

Comments ranged from support of the project, to general support with particular concerns, to skepticism.

Because the proposal process is still in its early phase—the applicants will take the council’s direction as they draft the full specific plan, with the subsequent environmental impact report and water supply study to follow—City Manager Jim App reminded people that there will be plenty of time to comment on the project in the future.

A representative for the project and designer for Studio 81, Kerrin West, expressed confidence that they could make a design consistent with the spirit of the town.

“Our house that we live in, we were all a development at some point that someone didn’t want,” West said. “If you do accept the idea that development is likely here, then we [would] like the ability to proceed.”

While the particulars are yet to be worked out, residents did wonder if the project was a good idea, as the area around Paso Robles is seeing declining water levels in its underlying Paso Robles Groundwater Basin. A moratorium currently bans new or increased water use from the basin, though the city isn’t included in that ban. City officials highlight that much of their water comes from the Nacimiento Water Project and wells along the Salinas River underflow, with only a fixed portion coming from the basin.

“The city is confident that we have the water portfolio necessary to provide for existing customers as well as the future of Paso Robles,” City Water Resources Manager Christopher Alakel told New Times.

Still, some residents are uneasy about a larger net increase in water use, no matter the source, as stakeholders work to get a handle on the groundwater basin’s situation.

“They’re more concerned about actual wet water than dry reports,” Council Member Steven Martin said.

-- Melody DeMeritt - former city council member, Morro Bay

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