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Showdown approaching over proposed Las Pilitas Quarry near Santa Margarita 

Since plans were initially unveiled a few years ago, the proposed Las Pilitas Quarry has been a big issue for the little town of Santa Margarita. The quarry, slated for a site off Highway 58 near the Salinas River, approximately 3 miles east of town, would supply aggregate material for roadwork, construction, landscaping, and other uses. The proposed project has created quite a stir, with many area residents expressing concerns over the project’s traffic, noise, and visual impacts, to name a few. Project applicants and their supporters have said that many of these impacts would be adequately mitigated, and the project would bring economic benefits and become a needed local source of granite and other materials.

The Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) was released in November, and the San Luis Obispo County Planning Commission will consider whether or not to issue a conditional use permit for the project on Dec. 11, in what will likely be a long, arduous hearing.

Opponents got a bit of a boost after the staff report was released late in the afternoon of Dec. 2 recommending that the planning commission deny the project.

“The required findings for issuance of the Conditional Use Permit cannot be met because the project would adversely impact the health, safety, and welfare of the community and the public as a result of seven significant and unavoidable impacts related to aesthetics, noise and traffic,” the report reads. “Staff is recommending that the proposed project be denied. At this time, the benefits of the project do not appear to outweigh the significant environmental impacts identified in the FEIR.”

The report details the various impacts to air quality; the area’s scenic, rural character; and in regard to noise generated from both explosives and machinery used at the quarry, as well as from trucks transporting the aggregate. The impacts to traffic in the surrounding area have been a particular focus, as the project would generate an estimated 198 to 273 truck trips a day during peak production (up to 500,000 tons of aggregate daily).

“This additional traffic would compromise the small town, rural character of this historic community,” the report reads. “Strong concerns have been expressed by residents along the proposed truck route through the community of Santa Margarita and from within other parts of Santa Margarita and the surrounding areas.”

Project applicants will likely have a few bones to pick with the staff report. Sophie Treder, the Santa Margarita-based land-use attorney representing Las Pilitas Resources LLC, told New Times that the applicants were still digesting the staff report, and declined to comment on specific details.

Treder issued a statement via email, reading: “The Las Pilitas Resources project remains in the early stages of the public process. With many discussions yet to take place amongst members of the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors, we’re confident that in the end, the outcomes of our conversations will only strengthen the project and ultimately lead to staff’s support.”

Regardless of what the planning commission decides on Dec. 11, there’s a strong likelihood that the project will get appealed to the Board of Supervisors.

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

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