Novemberâ€™s ballot will definitely include an initiative asking SLO County voters to make a decision on the proposed Dalidio shopping center off Madonna Road. But a new citizens groupâ€™s request for an analysis of the projectâ€™s impacts has been derailed by county supervisorsâ€™ summertime vacation plans.
The County Coalition for Local Control asked the board of supervisors on June 13 to require a staff reportâ€”under the state Elections Codeâ€”which would detail the costs of the project to local taxpayers and the environment. The coalition argued that voters should know whatâ€™s included with a â€œyesâ€? vote on the Dalidio initiativeâ€”such as impacts on traffic, air quality, public safety, and sales-tax revenues of local cities.
Californiaâ€™s Elections Code sets out a strict 30-day timeframe for such a report. In this case, the deadline would fall in mid-July, during the Board of Supervisorsâ€™ scheduled vacation.
Instead, county staff members said that theyâ€™ll ask for input from CalTrans, SLO city officials, and air- and water-quality officials before the county counsel prepares the mandated â€œimpartial analysisâ€? for the ballot. However, this information wonâ€™t be included in the analysis, which the countyâ€™s attorney said will be limited to a legal analysis of the measure.
In a cost-cutting move, supervisors have also approved County Clerk-recorder Julie Rodewaldâ€™s decision not to include the full text of the lengthy initiative in the sample ballot mailed to county voters. Any voter who wants to read the complete measure can request that it be mailed to him or her, or can read it on the countyâ€™s web site.
The proposed shopping mall would be the largest in the county, boasting 530,000 square feet of stores. Leases have been signed with Target, Loweâ€™s, Old Navy, and Lane Bryant, according to the projectâ€™s public relations officer, Dave Cox.
â€œA couple of others are in the worksâ€”but not Wal-Mart,â€? Cox said.
Now named the Dalidio Ranch Projectâ€”rather than its former title of the Marketplaceâ€”the development would feature fewer small stores than did the original plan turned down by SLO voters, plus a sewage treatment plant onsite, and no Prado Road overpass for Hwy. 101.
Under Californiaâ€™s initiative process, no environmental impact report (EIR) is required.
Representatives from the projectâ€™s planning and legal firms carried boxes of reports into Tuesdayâ€™s supervisorsâ€™ meeting, saying that the proposal has already been studied enough.
â€œEnormous work and thought has gone into creating this initiative,â€? said lawyer Dennis Law.
More than a dozen other speakers asked supervisors to make sure voters have enough information about the projectâ€™s impacts before casting their ballots.
â€œVoters deserve as much information as possible. Itâ€™s fashionable to try to work around the law,â€? said Dennis Kish. â€œThe Dalidio initiative threatens local control in every city in the county, when developers can bypass the analysis of the pesky review procedure.â€?
â€œIâ€™ve never seen a private developer attempt to have dictatorial powers on land use,â€? Cal Poly professor Eugene Judd told supervisors.
He and other speakers expressed concern about the precedent set by the initiative, which makes the development exempt from local and state laws.
â€œThis is not about shopping. This is not about an individualâ€™s right to develop his property. This is about abuse of the initiative process,â€? said Christine Mulholland, who said she was speaking as a private citizen and not as a SLO city councilmember.
More than 18,000 signatures were gathered in a petition drive to place the initiative on the countywide ballot. During the signature collection, supporters emphasized the developmentâ€™s latest features, including a 13-acre organic farm and daily farmers market, a soccer field, a butterfly habitat, and a bicycle trail.