In another split vote, a divided Pismo Beach Planning Commission narrowly signed off on a draft pre-annexation and development agreement for the contentious Spanish Springs project.
The commission voted 3-2—with one commissioner absent—on Nov. 13 to recommend that the City Council approve the project and its accompanying development guidelines when it goes before the council in January 2013. Commissioners David Jewell and Kate Shurson voted against the project.
The Spanish Springs project as currently proposed entails 390 single-family residences, 320 senior homes, 83 apartments, a 150-room hotel and conference center, a vineyard, and a golf course—all on about 960 acres north of the Pismo Beach city limits.
Under the development agreement, the developer will be required to provide upgrades to the city’s wastewater treatment system, as well as purchase an additional 500 acre-feet of water per year, and a number of other “considerations” as a condition for approval.
Terms of the agreement would be good for 20 years, and would be effective 30 days after a final adoption from council.
Though the agreement would encourage the applicants to develop the entire project area, it left the timeframe and manner in which they could do so “open to market conditions,” which caused a degree of concern for some commissioners.
City Planner Jon Biggs said it was “important to keep in mind” that the developers were making a “significant” investment right off the bat for construction, and it will not be in their interest to let the land sit idle.
“They want a return,” Biggs said. “And how they will do that is by making sure the homes and hotel are in because it’s going to be part of their revenue stream.”
Following a stiff warning from Chair D.J. White against “slanderous” statements directed at commissioners, some 10 residents spoke politely before the commission, a thin majority of whom argued against the project. Those opposed cited increased traffic congestion in the Oak Park area, the city’s water woes, and the perceived lack of teeth in its development agreement.
“You think [the developer] is in this for the long haul? Don’t believe it because it’s not true,” said resident and former city council candidate Sheila Blake. “He’s going to sell it after he gets his annexation.”
“I hope you understand what a profound effect just a few people will have on the future of the city,” said resident Benjamin Davis.
The applicant’s representative, Mark McGuire, rebutted some of the criticisms, claiming the project, once completed, would add some 7,000 car trips to the area a day.
In September, the commission—in another split vote—recommended that the council approve guidelines for development in Price Canyon, which would expand city lands by some 50 percent.