It didn’t take long for SLO County supervisors to switch from goodbyes and handshakes to bickering. All it took to kill the good mood was the Santa Margarita Ranch project.
The Dec. 16 Board of Supervisors meeting began with acknowledgments to Supervisors Jerry Lenthall and Harry Ovitt for their last meeting as supervisors. As the meeting stretched past the regular deadline, and with other major projects still on the docket, county supervisors decided to continue the public hearing for the controversial Santa Margarita Ranch agricultural cluster project to Dec. 19 at 10 a.m., but not all of them agreed with the move.
Supervisor Bruce Gibson asked to continue the appeal hearing to the next open slot on the board’s agenda in February 2009, which would exclude Lenthall and Ovitt from casting a vote. Gibson was only able to win over fellow minority voter James Patterson. Patterson said he wanted to give the project adequate time for a thorough analysis, beyond the analysis he said had been “truncated” by rushed Planning Commission hearings and that more rushed discussions would ,“compromise public trust in the government process.”
Planning Commissioners voted 4-1 to deny the project, which was appealed to the Board of Supervisors and currently has a tentative 3-2 vote in favor.
Lenthall asked to have the hearing continued as well, but not to a regular scheduled board meeting. Not so subtly, Gibson pressured Lenthall to say why he would give the project its own special date rather than following regular procedure. Lenthall, however, did not answer the question directly and only said he picked the date because all the supervisors could be there.
“You missed the point of my question here,” an agitated Gibson said.
Despite Gibson and Patterson’s protests, the vote went 3-2 to move the hearing a few days out, drawing exasperated sighs from audience members, some of whom had been waiting all day to comment on the project.