With one council member absent and a flood of citizen speakers eating up the clock at the Feb. 5 Pismo Beach City Council meeting, the city punted a decision on the massive Spanish Springs development clear into next month.
Several planning documents must be approved before the city can apply for annexation of 961 pristine acres near Price Canyon and allow a developer to begin building, but Mayor Shelly Higginbotham announced at the beginning of the public hearing that no vote would take place without Councilmember Mary Ann Reiss. The matter will come back to the council on March 5, giving staff the opportunity to prepare responses to concerns aired by the roughly 60 citizens who spoke at the packed Vet’s Hall.
The first half of the hearing happened on Jan. 15 with a staff report and a spirited public comment session, and on Feb. 5, the developer, Steven Hester of BHT II Pismo, LLC was given the opportunity to answer public criticism of the project and field questions from council members.
“This is a balanced project of the highest quality,” Hester said. “We realize Pismo Beach is a special place, and we own a special site that deserves careful consideration.”
Hester said he’d add a mechanism to the development schedule to ensure that the project is fiscally positive for the city at every phase of construction. It would assess future Spanish Springs residents with a special tax that could bridge any potential gaps between revenue from property taxes and service costs with a minimum 10 percent contingency. He also said he’d be willing to move the proposed senior center from an isolated spot atop a residential hill to the flatter commercial area near the proposed nine-hole golf course and hotel.
Hester brought support cards signed by 191 residents, and many more people spoke in favor of the project than at the last hearing. Still, their comments were practically drowned out by droves of vocal citizens in opposition.
Many speakers were still concerned about traffic being funneled through Highland Drive until a later-phase road can connect the project to Price Canyon Road after tunneling under a railroad and bridging over Pismo Creek. Connie Marangi spoke last at 11:30 p.m. and summed up widespread worries that the project would put Pismo Beach on the path to becoming a formerly beautiful beach town ruined by sprawl, another Orange County or Mission Viejo.
“They raped the land down there, and they’re gonna do the same thing here,” Marangi said.