Morro Bay rejects second appeal of proposed rehab facility



During a June 8 Morro Bay City Council meeting, Mayor John Headding said that an appeal of the project that proposes to convert a motel into drug and alcohol rehabilitation housing is complex.

He acknowledged the community's concerns but said it's not the City Council's job to legally determine "what's appropriate or inappropriate" if a project complies with the city's zoning and land use codes.

The council unanimously voted to reject the second appeal of the project during the June 8 meeting. Ashley Smith, a concerned resident and parent, appealed the Morro Bay Planning Commission's April 20 decision to deny her initial appeal of the project.

ONWARD Morro Bay's city council rejects the second appeal on a permit that would convert its use to a recovery center. - PHOTO COURTESY OF RODEWAY INN
  • Photo Courtesy Of Rodeway Inn
  • ONWARD Morro Bay's city council rejects the second appeal on a permit that would convert its use to a recovery center.

Although Smith authored both appeals, they are supported by many community members who voiced their concerns via email and public comment during the appeals process.

During public comment on June 8, Morro Bay resident Dave Smith (no relation to Ashley Smith) said he had listened to both appeal hearings and urged the council to put restrictions on the facility if it couldn't outright reject the project.

"The minute they don't have supervision in the evenings for their clients they can be out in the community. There needs to be penalties in place if they are outside of the facility ... that is endangering the community," Dave said.

In her first appeal, Smith argued that the permit did not adequately address the facility's impact on public safety, business, and tourism. Her second appeal stated the city's staff and planning commission failed to research or provide documentation "that an analysis was completed on all five circumstances in which a city can deny this permit as outlined in the Housing Accountability Act."

Smith's appeal demanded the city investigate a list of facilities that are believed to be affiliated with the applicant or operator of the permit to provide evidence that the proposed facility will not have adverse impacts on the Morro Bay community. It also demanded the project applicant provide a list of state Department of Health Care Services license-related documents and that the hearing be held in person on a day other than the regularly scheduled council meetings—the city is not holding in-person council meetings per COVID-19 safety protocols.

City staff suggested the council reject the appeal, citing the Housing Accountability Act, which states that if a housing project complies with the city's zoning code and its general plan and there isn't tangible evidence of harm, then the project has to be approved. Anecdotal concerns and public comments from residents are not seen as tangible evidence.

If the council were to approve the appeal based on the community's input, it could be viewed as discriminatory and the city could be subject to a lawsuit. This is the same reasoning the Planning Commission used to reject the first appeal. Δ


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