After a second long hearing on a proposed quarry near Santa Margarita, San Luis Obispo County planning commissioners again decided to delay a vote so they could take more time to chew on the project.
The commission first heard the matter on Dec. 11, when it was inundated with testimony from Santa Margarita area residents in support of and opposed to the project. The commission continued the matter to Jan. 8, when a decision was still not made after commissioners acknowledged the issue’s complexity and the volume of information to process before making a decision.
Las Pilitas Resources LLC has applied for a conditional use permit to operate a rock quarry 3 miles east of Santa Margarita, near where Highway 58 crosses over the Salinas River. The project has become the center of focus for the community, leading residents to express a widespread set of concerns that hinge largely on the truck traffic the project would generate. Proponents have highlighted both a need for an additional local source of aggregate and the good track record of the project’s owners, Cole Farms Trucking and Souza Construction Inc., both owned by families who live in the Santa Margarita area.
County planning staff is recommending denial of the project, citing a series of findings that outline significant, unavoidable impacts and an imbalance between those impacts and the project’s benefits. The report identifies noise and visual impacts that are considered inconsistent with the area’s rural nature, as well as health and safety concerns.
Sophie Treder, a Santa Margarita-based land use attorney representing the project, said the owners would be willing to mitigate when necessary.
“State law has recognized that quarry projects were not beauty contests. If they were, they would never be approved,” Treder said, drawing a distinction between the specific findings that the commission is to consider and the community sentiments they’ve been hearing.
Some area residents, however, are holding their ground.
“You’re seeing an outpouring of community here. I don’t know how that can be ignored,” said Charlie Kleeman, who lives within shouting distance of the project. “What’s going on here is an ongoing effort to dig up offsets to impacts.”
The commission will revisit the project on Feb. 5.
-- Melody DeMeritt - former city council member, Morro Bay