SLO County mulls changes to Monarch Dunes buildout


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More housing and a smaller hotel could be in store for the Trilogy at Monarch Dunes development in Nipomo—part of a slate of proposed revisions to the next phase of the project's buildout.

Trilogy residents filled the SLO County government chambers on Feb. 9 as the county Planning Commission deliberated the changes proposed by builder Shea Homes.

SHUFFLING PLANS Builder Shea Homes is looking to revise its plans for the Trilogy at Monarch Dunes development—proposing to move a hotel and condos to its village center (sites 1 and 2) and add 112 twin homes in lieu of a public park (sites 3 and 4). - RENDERING COURTESY OF SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY
  • Rendering Courtesy Of San Luis Obispo County
  • SHUFFLING PLANS Builder Shea Homes is looking to revise its plans for the Trilogy at Monarch Dunes development—proposing to move a hotel and condos to its village center (sites 1 and 2) and add 112 twin homes in lieu of a public park (sites 3 and 4).

Shea Homes agent Jamie Jones explained that the project's original specific plan, approved by the county in 1998, envisioned a 400-room hotel, a large commercial/retail center, and a public park or school.

But the circumstances today are different, she said. The company instead wants to amend the specific plan to downsize the hotel to 65 rooms, relocate it to the "village center" with reduced commercial/retail space, and build 162 more housing units—40 condos and 112 twin homes. Some of those units would be built on the former park site.

"A lot has changed since 1998," Jones said. "The market was different. Retail was different. Housing needs were different. Talking with county planners, [the question was] what should we do with these sites? It was really focused on housing."

The added housing, relocation of the hotel to the village center, and the loss of park and open space emerged as the most controversial aspects of the revisions.

In the months leading up to the meeting, Shea Homes and the Trilogy homeowners' association (HOA) struck an agreement that involved Shea and its contractor contributing $4.2 million to the HOA to help it improve its recreational amenities in conjunction with the buildout. That money would help build a new pool as well as new pickleball, tennis, and bocce ball courts.

That proposal garnered 61 percent support from Trilogy homeowners in an HOA survey, and the HOA gave its official endorsement to the county for the plan amendments. But some Trilogy residents told the commission that they objected to the changes as well as the process behind them.

"I think it is a false choice that they've set up—that unfortunately our [HOA] board has bought into—that there's only two things we can do: one is to live with the 400-room hotel and the big village center as it was planned 20 to 30 years ago, or adopt this very plan," resident Rosemary Remacle said. "I think there's also a little bit of misrepresentation about all the communication within the community. ... We were told Shea would take back the money they have offered to the community for amenities if we did not vote yes, which I consider some kind of blackmail or bullying."

After an extensive discussion, planning commissioners voted 4-1 to recommend the specific plan amendments to the Board of Supervisors—with some stipulations. The commission recommended that Shea Homes be required to incorporate 31 accessory dwelling units (ADUs) into the 112 twin homes—an effort to add affordable housing into the project.

Jones, the developer's agent, supported the ADU idea and said that Trilogy is "not a good fit for deed-restricted affordable housing" due to its "high HOA fees and lack of public transit." She noted that if even 5 percent of the twin homes were deed restricted as affordable to moderate-income buyers, Shea Homes would lose $2.6 million.

"We think this is the most cost-effective proposal for all," Jones said of the plan for 31 ADUs.

The Planning Commission also supported a proposal to ask the county to dedicate $1.2 million in developer fees—paid by Shea Homes as an in-lieu fee for the loss of park space—to help pave 3 miles of pedestrian trails around Trilogy.

"A lot of the people who are in this development bought with the idea there was going to be a park there. So they're losing something relatively large," 1st District Commissioner Alex Villicana said. "I really feel that if we have any ability to direct where those funds go in this community to mitigate the loss of the park, we should do that."

Mike Multari, the 2nd District commissioner, dissented in the vote and spoke the most critically of the amendments. He challenged Shea Homes and the county to reexamine whether a hotel made sense for the development at all. He also said he's "uncomfortable that there isn't more support from the community generally" for the changes.

"Is this specific plan a good improvement over the old specific plan? Why are we locked into this notion that we need a resort in this location in Nipomo?" he said. "It's kind of dumb, in my opinion." Δ



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