The election-night confetti had barely been swept aside when some local activists switched from celebrating the election of two new members of the Board of Supervisors, to fretting about what may happen before the new members take their seats.
It will be six months before the new members take their posts. That’s because, as a nonpartisan office, the process allows time for a runoff vote in November if nobody wins more than half the vote. In this election, however, all the elections were won by more than 50 percent.
The time gap means several prominent projects that have already been in the process are likely to get votes by the current board.
Sue Harvey of the group North County Watch said she wants one project, a plan to build 111 homes on the 14,000-acre ranch surrounding Santa Margarita, delayed until the new board is seated.
The project is slated to go before the Planning Commission in July, but Harvey said it should be postponed until next year.
“This is one of the projects that exemplifies what the voters were voting against and for that reason they should kick it to the next board,” she said.
Doug Filipponi, a co-owner of the ranch, disagrees.
“This project was applied for four years ago,” he said. “We don’t think that the election has any bearing on it because we’re following ordinances that have been in place for years now.”
Besides, he said, nobody knows whether a new board will see this project any differently that the current board.
The two new board members essentially agree.
“We don’t know where the new board will be on some of these issues,” said Paso Robles Mayor Frank Mecham, who will take the seat of longtime incumbent Harry Ovitt in the 1st District.
More to the point, Mecham said he rejects the notion that he’ll be one of two conservative votes on a board dominated by liberals; he said he expects a “centrist” board and added that he doesn’t expect any rush to cram projects onto the current board’s agenda.
“I don’t subscribe to that whole idea that there’s nothing I’m going to be able to do. I never have.”
Adam Hill, who won the seat of 3rd District Supervisor Jerry Lenthall, said he agrees.
“This board was elected to serve four years, so they certainly have the right to continue to do as they see fit all the way through the last board meeting of this year,” said Hill.
Still, Hill said 3rd District voters expressed a strong concern with issues of growth and water use, and “I do think those are things that are important and should be recognized by the existing supervisor through the end of his term.”
Some activists said they’re also less worried about the prospect for a lame-duck session because Supervisor Jim Patterson, considered a ‘smart-growth’ supervisor, controls the agenda as chairman.
Others said the system moves so slowly already, it would be hard for anyone to manipulate the process and rush things through.
“I just think that any new project that tried to get through the door would have a tough time getting approved in six months,” said Gordon Hensley of SLO Coastkeeper and Environment in the Public Interest.
“I guess we’ve just got to stay on our toes.”