Paso Robles City Council members, emphatically denying the existence of any municipal water supply issues, voted unanimously on Oct. 1 to take the next steps in developing a 270-acre site on the southwestern edge of town.
If San Francisco resident Michael Furlotti, who owns the land, gets his wish, the site currently used for cattle grazing and dotted with almond trees will officially become the “Paso Robles Gateway Project.”
Furlotti wants his land annexed into the city and subsequently transformed into three hotels, 62,300 square feet of retail and office space, up to 35 single-family homes, and a 114-acre vineyard.
On Oct. 1, the council awarded a pair of consulting contracts—cumulatively worth more than a quarter-million dollars—for investigation of the potential environmental impacts of the development.
According to Community Development Director Ed Gallagher, the Los Angeles-based firm AECOM will prepare an Environmental Impact Report (EIR, cost: $232,784) and Alameda-based Todd Engineers will prepare a Water Supply Assessment (WSA, cost: $19,860). These costs will initially be incurred by the city, but Furlotti is required to reimburse them in full, Gallagher said.
City staff and council members, seemingly anticipating a water conservationist backlash that never materialized, repeatedly emphasized that all plans for the Gateway development were “highly preliminary.”
Paso Robles Water Resources Manager Christopher Alakel reported that the development sits on the Atascadero sub-basin, which is healthier and fuller than the Paso Robles groundwater basin. He also said the city currently has an ample water supply—augmented by conservation, wastewater treatment, and the Nacimiento Water Project.
Much of the demand on the overdrawn Paso Robles basin comes from vineyards outside of the city limits, with a comparatively small percentage—dwindling by design—coming from municipal use.
“I wish the Paso Robles basin would be called the ‘North County water basin’ or something, because the name has been harming our economy and reputation,” said Mayor Duane Picanco. “We’ve been good stewards in Paso.”
Alakel insisted that the Gateway development would have “zero impact” on the Paso Robles groundwater basin over the long run.
The WSA is scheduled to be completed in the spring of 2014, with the EIR to follow in July.