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Dalidio project will be on ballot—no environmental impact report required

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November’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 group’s request for an analysis of the project’s impacts has been derailed by county supervisors’ summertime vacation plans.

The County Coalition for Local Control asked the board of supervisors on June 13 to require a staff report—under the state Elections Code—which would detail the costs of the project to local taxpayers and the environment. The coalition argued that voters should know what’s included with a “yes� vote on the Dalidio initiative—such as impacts on traffic, air quality, public safety, and sales-tax revenues of local cities.

California’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 Supervisors’ scheduled vacation.

Instead, county staff members said that they’ll ask for input from CalTrans, SLO city officials, and air- and water-quality officials before the county counsel prepares the mandated “impartial analysis� for the ballot. However, this information won’t be included in the analysis, which the county’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 Rodewald’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 county’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, Lowe’s, Old Navy, and Lane Bryant, according to the project’s public relations officer, Dave Cox.

“A couple of others are in the works—but not Wal-Mart,� Cox said.

Now named the Dalidio Ranch Project—rather than its former title of the Marketplace—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 California’s initiative process, no environmental impact report (EIR) is required.

Representatives from the project’s planning and legal firms carried boxes of reports into Tuesday’s supervisors’ meeting, saying that the proposal has already been studied enough.

“Enormous work and thought has gone into creating this initiative,� said lawyer Dennis Law.

More than a dozen other speakers asked supervisors to make sure voters have enough information about the project’s impacts before casting their ballots.

“Voters deserve as much information as possible. It’s fashionable to try to work around the law,� said Dennis Kish. “The Dalidio initiative threatens local control in every city in the county, when developers can bypass the analysis of the pesky review procedure.�

“I’ve never seen a private developer attempt to have dictatorial powers on land use,� 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.

“This is not about shopping. This is not about an individual’s right to develop his property. This is about abuse of the initiative process,� 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 development’s latest features, including a 13-acre organic farm and daily farmers market, a soccer field, a butterfly habitat, and a bicycle trail.


 

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