Las Pilitas quarry shot down, again



After the county denied permitting a rock quarry near Santa Margarita, Las Pilitas Resources LLC thought it would have better luck with the state. Turns out, that’s not really the case.

Las Pilitas Resources filed an appeal on May 27 with the state Mining and Geology Board (MGB), a body that can at times trump local agencies. MGB Chair Gideon Kracov signed a June 10 letter to the project’s applicant informing them that the board won’t hear the appeal. That decision was made after Kracov deemed that the board doesn’t have jurisdiction over this case and that Las Pilitas didn’t present substantial reasons for a state hearing.

The MGB appeal is the most recent blow in what has been a contentious battle between Las Pilitas Resources—which proposed to operate a rock quarry on State Highway 58 near its crossing with the Salinas River, 3 miles outside of Santa Margarita—and Santa Margarita-area community members. Project opponents were concerned about the myriad of negative impacts identified in the project’s environmental impact report, including frequent truck trips through town and the surrounding rural area.

The project, which has been on the table since 2010, was denied by the SLO County Planning Commission in February after the commission ruled that the project and its impacts were inconsistent with the area and too great for the community to bear. The applicants appealed it to the Board of Supervisors, which reaffirmed the Planning Commission’s decision after a marathon meeting on May 12.

Because the MGB identifies the site as an area of regional significance due to the high-grade granite composites in the ground, the applicants had the possibility of getting a little wiggle room outside of the county’s land-use authority. In the appeal of the Board of Supervisor’s decision, applicants argued that the project would provide some much-needed aggregate and be compatible with the area’s land-use and zoning classifications. Las Pilitas Resources also argued that using State Highway 58 as its primary transportation route gives the state some authority on the matter.

According to the June 10 MGB letter, those arguments were insufficient for the board to hear the appeal. Part of the denial came as the result of un-fortuitous timing—although the MGB adopted regulations specific to the area’s regional significance, they don’t go into effect until July 1.

-- Melody DeMeritt - former city council member, Morro Bay

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