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Housing project gets approval in Templeton 

Nothing’s perfect.

That was the sentiment expressed by San Luis Obispo County supervisors on Jan. 25 when they approved a housing project in downtown Templeton. It was a breaking-eggs-to-make-an-omelet situation, where county supervisors conceded that in order to pursue a goal of strategic growth (preferring dense projects near town centers over rural sprawl) they couldn’t nitpick projects to death.

“If we expect perfection in strategic growth, we will not get it,” said Supervisor Adam Hill.

The project, proposed by Templeton Properties, will add 107 homes, a commercial space, and a park on Main Street. The county Planning Commission denied it in November 2009 because it wasn’t dense enough. The applicant appealed to county supervisors last February, but lost and was told to submit a redesigned project and environmental determination. Fast forward a year, and Templeton Properties turned in a new project with a more compact design and new location for the park. But it wasn’t enough to win over the Templeton Area Advisory Group and some members of the public. Public opinions divided between those urging the supervisors to approve the project and pump money back into local schools and businesses, and others who believed the project hadn’t been thoroughly vetted, environmentally speaking.

“The Davises are in an unfortunate position … but in the end the project violates the General Plan,” Sue Harvey of North County Watch said, referring to the applicants.

Indeed, Supervisor Bruce Gibson believed the project violated the county’s General Plan and went against the community’s design standards. Arguing that a portion of the property was designated for recreation, Gibson said he saw opportunities to redesign a better project and believed the design he was looking at was only there because the developers were eager to utilize water rights they have in the area.

“It’s quite clear to me that the design of this project is being driven by the water rights that are available to the developer, and that’s not at all in the interest of the community,” he said.

And there was Supervisor Frank Mecham, who thought the project was too dense.

“I think we can solve this whole thing by going back to the original project these guys proposed,” he said.

After hours of public testimony—the meeting stretched till almost 5 p.m. when the agenda had only scheduled a half-day—the board approved the project, with Gibson voting no and Mecham voting “reluctantly yes.”

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