While the developers behind the proposed Spanish Springs project battle public disapproval and hefty demands for more information, a much smaller plan that would include some of the same features is coming to fruition.
Jon Biggs, community development director for Pismo Beach, received a project description on April 23 from the local developers who own Big Bird Ranch, a 258-acre parcel just outside the city limits. At the May 7 city council meeting, Biggs plans to present a status update on four of the city’s major projects, including the 961-acre Spanish Springs, a hotel near the Orchard Supply Hardware store, and the newly revealed Big Bird project.
Dubbed Pismo Ranch, the project has a long way to go before potentially breaking ground, but the preliminary plans include a hotel and conference center, limited restaurant/retail space, 370 mixed-use homes, 174 acres of open space, and the immediate construction of an inland arterial street, which would cross Pismo Creek and connect the project to Price Canyon Road.
A major public concern with the Spanish Springs project is that all traffic would be funneled through Highland Drive, a steep, residential road, until an inland arterial is built in the second phase of construction. On March 5, the City Council asked for specific details about the nature of a proposed senior center on the site and demanded an outline of how the project would remain fiscally positive for the city during and after construction—and officials wouldn’t count the site’s richest revenue stream: transient occupancy tax from the luxury hotel.
Susan Testa, an outspoken critic of Spanish Springs, said developer Darren Shetler met with her and other members of the “Save Price Canyon” group to allay their concerns.
“The plan makes more sense,” Testa said. “It’s closer to the city, but it’s still a lot of development in a very small space.”
Shetler said he also met with city officials and Spanish Springs consultants to make sure his plan aligns with the other projects, adding that he’s designed the project to work whether or not the Spanish Springs project moves forward.
The Big Bird parcel already has a temporary bridge in place to accommodate construction traffic, and the plans include a roundabout to help divert traffic to Price Canyon Road instead of Highland Drive.
“We want to reduce as many impacts as possible to Highland Drive,” Shetler said. “That’s a very sensitive issue with the public.”
The city would have to annex land from San Luis Obispo County for either project to happen.