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Accusations fly in supes spat over Nipomo substation

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The acrimony between members of the SLO County Board of Supervisors didn’t end with the divisive vote over who would serve as chairman.

Supervisors Bruce Gibson (2nd District) and Adam Hill (3rd District) took 4th District Supervisor Lynn Compton to task over her involvement in a deal between a large developer and the county in connection with plans to build a substation for the SLO County Sheriff’s Office in Nipomo.

Both Hill and Gibson accused Compton of being to beholden to the project’s developers and allowing them to squirm out of an agreement to provide a substation, leaving SLO County taxpayers on the hook for part of the cost.

Regardless, the deal was approved on a 3-2 vote thanks to a newly consolidated three-vote block of Compton and fellow supervisors Debbie Arnold (5th District) and John Peschong (1st District). 

“We got sold short on this,” Gibson said.

The controversy surrounds a condition included as part of the approval for the construction of the second phase of Trilogy at Monarch Dunes, a large mixed-use project that incudes residential homes, golf courses, and a business park. When the project was first approved in 2002, the developer was required to provide 3,000 square feet of office space for a sheriff’s substation. That changed under the agreement the board approved during the Jan. 10 meeting. Now property owner Monarch Dunes, LLC and developer Shea Homes will provide a minimum 200-square-foot facility within the Trilogy subdivision for the Sheriff’s Office and pay $594,000 toward construction of a substation to be built at a later date on land outside Trilogy.

Gibson opposed the agreement, arguing that the substation described in the original agreement would cost at least $1 million to build. He said that allowing the Trilogy developers to pay less than $600,000 for a future, offsite substation moved the burden of the facility’s remaining cost on the county’s taxpayers.

“I’m not inclined to try to spend the general taxpayers’ money to take care of a developer that had a very specific condition to provide you a substation,” Gibson told Compton.

Compton, who represents the Nipomo area, fired back at Gibson. She argued that the original condition was too vague and that the new agreement was reached after more than a year of consultation between the county, the Sheriff’s Office, and project’s developers. Compton added that Trilogy’s developers all felt that they “shouldn’t pay anything” for a substation. During a heated exchange, Compton appeared to accuse Gibson of meddling in her district’s affairs.

“So don’t mess with this. This is something that everyone agrees, including the sheriff and the county, is a good deal for us, and everybody has come to an agreement,” Compton said. 

Hill—who, earlier at the meeting, was passed over for a turn to chair the board—claimed that Compton’s support of the resolution went beyond simply trying to iron out a “good deal” for her district’s constituents. He said she was instead actively doing the bidding of a developer who lobbied her and donated to her campaign.

“Supervisor Compton has been acting on behalf of the developer’s interests instead of the people of Nipomo and the people of the district,” Hill said.

Hill did not name the developer, but campaign finance records showed that Compton accepted $3,000 in donations from John Scardino in 2014. Scardino is a principal at JHS LLC, which includes as one of its affiliate companies Western Pacific Land Group, one of the partners in the Trilogy at Monarch Dunes projects, according to a 2013 news article on the exclusivelysanluis.com website.

Compton denied that she was “in the pocket of developers,” noting that Hill himself had taken contributions from SLO County builders. Campaign finance records showed that Hill received $3,300 from Scardino in 2016. 

Compton said voting down the current agreement put jobs and the possibility of getting any funding at all for the substation at risk.

“The developer felt we were owed nothing, and we got them to come up with half-a-million dollars,” she said.

Both County Counsel Rita Neal and Sheriff Ian Parkinson spoke in favor of approving the agreement. Neal agreed that the original condition wasn’t “black and white” and characterized the new agreement as a “fair deal.” Parkinson said that the original condition predated his tenure, but said the he didn’t feel a 3,000-square-foot substation located within the residential development was adequate for the department’s needs. 

“I would not have agreed to that today because it didn’t make sense for a substation,” he said. 

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