Orcutt-area voters approve controversial SLO annexation

Adding land to city paves way for homes, commercial development to fall under its jurisdiction

acornejo@thetribunenews.comNovember 15, 2011 

Residents of the contested Orcutt area near San Luis Obispo voted to allow annexation by the city Tuesday, paving the way for millions of dollars of residential and commercial development to fall under the city’s jurisdiction.

Twenty-nine people voted in favor of the city’s plan to annex the area. Eighteen voted against it.

Only the 55 registered voters said to be living in the area were eligible to vote on the issue. Election results released Tuesday night showed that 47 of the 55 people registered to vote in the area did so by mail ballot.

The pastoral stretch of land on the southern edge of San Luis Obispo is the third major annexation approved in recent years.

A vocal outcry by a handful of property owners in the area protesting the change was enough to trigger the election but not enough to prevent the annexation.

Nearly two dozen voters were prompted to either register to vote or change their registration status to the contested area in order to cast a ballot Tuesday, according to voter registration records.

Only residents who live on one of the 21 parcels in the area — or those who claim that they intend to make that their permanent residence one day — were allowed to vote.

The city, planning for significant growth along its southern border, also has recently annexed land near the airport and in the Margarita area for future homes and commercial development.

Those who want to develop the area have worked for years and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to get a land-use plan approved for future development.

Those against the plan have said they are concerned about how their land could be eventually affected.

The 230-acre Orcutt area, bounded by Orcutt and Tank Farm roads, could be developed to include up to 979 residential units, ranging from single-family homes to multifamily apartments. A mixed residential and commercial development is also proposed.

Landowners can choose not to develop their properties but must follow the city’s development plan for the area if they choose to.

The project also includes the preservation of more than 80 acres of open space, with an additional 20 acres designated for recreation and parkland.

Righetti Hill, also known as Mine Hill, at Orcutt and Tank Farm roads would remain open space and include a hiking trail to the top.

For more than 30 years, the Orcutt area has been identified by the city as having potential for residential expansion.

In March 2010, the City Council approved a development plan for the area. The Orcutt Area Specific Plan is meant to provide a cohesive approach to development of the area. The city then applied for the annexation.

The annexation was approved by the San Luis Obispo Local Agency Formation Commission in April, but opponents of the plan filed enough protest letters with the agency to trigger Tuesday’s special election.

The area’s 13 property owners can now submit development plans. Full buildout of the area is expected to take more than a decade.

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