Atascadero's Eagle Ranch project is far from straightforward

Special to The TribuneMarch 11, 2013 

Following publication of last week’s column on the proposed development of the 3,400-acre Eagle Ranch that borders Atascadero on the south side, I learned several facts.

First, many of those living in the area believe the Smith family has been more than willing to take public input on their project, but every single person who responded to me via email felt any development should be left to that of the existing lots of record.

I also learned more about the whole property tax issue. I had written that it seemed unfair that if developed into the city, the county would continue to collect two-thirds of the property taxes even though the city would be responsible for first response for fire, medical aid and police protection.

A friend put things in perspective by pointing out that the city gets about 15 cents of every dollar we pay in property taxes. So under the current split, the city gets a nickel. Not much to wrangle over.

I have always been told that residential development does not pay all the costs for local services – police, fire, planning, parks and recreation, public works and more. That’s why cities often encourage commercial development along with new residential construction.

Another issue I hadn’t considered is that, regardless of those basic services I mentioned being provided by the city, the county isn’t off the hook.

A former student of mine, recently retired county auditor Gere Sibbach, reminded me that the county will continue to provide a large number of services to the properties and the residents who settle there.

He reminded me that the county will continue to provide all public health and social services to residents who will have the use of county-maintained parks, libraries and roads that feed into the ranch area. The county will also continue to be responsible for jail, probation, district attorney and public defender services. And, in the event of a wildland fire, county fire will provide backup and mutual aid.

I was also reminded that the schools get about 65 percent of future property taxes even before the city and county fight over dividing up what is left.

So just when I thought I had it all figured out, I learn, as I have so many times in the past seven decades, that nothing is ever as black and white as it appears.

Lon Allan's column is special to The Tribune. He has lived in Atascadero for nearly five decades and his column appears here every week. Reach Allan at 466-8529 or

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