The multi-faceted dispute over air quality on the Nipomo Mesa was ignited again at the April 22 meeting of the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors.
Ultimately, the supervisors unanimously denied an appeal from local activist Kevin P. Rice and approved plans for a 21-home subdivision on the Mesa.
Rice—a frequent political candidate and advocate for unfettered off-highway vehicle activity in the Oceano Dunes—was in a rather unusual position as an appellant: asking for a thorough environmental review of the development and citing concerns about Mesa air quality.
“This appeal is not here to stop development, it is here to get consideration for potentially significant environmental impacts,” Rice said in his public testimony. “Every little of bit of dust adds something.”
Rice told New Times this appeal was predicated on the principle of equal treatment. If the county Air Pollution Control District (APCD) is going to enforce dust mitigation measures like Rule 1001 for OHV riders in the dunes, then the district should be equally stringent for Mesa development projects that can kick up dust, he explained.
In his appeal, Rice argued that the planned subdivision in Nipomo’s Cypress Ridge development has incurred 23 violations of county planning and environmental rules.
In their response, county planning staff and APCD representatives said that the subdivision project—which sits in the least dust-impacted area on the Mesa—wouldn’t contribute to dust pollution.
“This project will not result in an impact that will adversely affect the health of sensitive individuals,” said Aeron Arlin-Genet, the APCD’s planning and outreach division manager.
After just more than an hour of testimony and discussion, the board unanimously voted to reject Rice’s appeal.
District 4 Supervisor Caren Ray—whose district includes the subdivision—said she appreciated the dust control measures that will be taken, but also wanted to avoid a situation where absolutely anything proposed on the Mesa would require a full environmental impact report.
The subdivision—initially approved by the county Planning Commission in December 2013—will include 21 residential parcels ranging between .84 and 1.27 acres each, and two non-buildable open space parcels of 21.2 and 14.6 acres.