Landowner seeks to build hotels, vineyards in southwest Paso Robles

City Council will consider annexing land near Target for mixed-use project, including vineyards

tstrickland@thetribunenews.comSeptember 30, 2013 

The initial steps to bring a major annexation project proposing hotels and vineyards on Paso Robles’ southwest side will be considered Tuesday night by the City Council.

Called the Paso Robles Gateway Project, the development would annex from San Luis Obispo County to the city approximately 270 acres at Highway 101 and Highway 46 West, near South Vine Street. The proposal includes three separate hotels, approximately 62,300 square feet of retail and office space, up to 35 single-family residential units on one half- to one-acre lots, 114 acres of vineyards and additional open space.

Realigning South Vine Street toward the west so that it would line up with Gahan Place across Highway 46 West is also proposed.

The applicant is landowner Michael Furlotti from the Bay Area, according to the city.

The annexation and associated project proposal are not part of the city’s long-range planning goals. Studies are first needed to see how the project would mesh with the city.

Water is the big question, Mayor Duane Picanco said Monday.

“We’re going to require that we make certain that they verify we have enough water. We think we do, but we want to make sure,” he said.

So far, the idea is that the development could buy additional water from Nacimiento Lake, he said, noting that it’s unclear whether the proposed project lies over the dwindling Paso Robles groundwater basin or the healthier Atascadero sub-basin. That distinction will require further study.

Water is a hot topic in the North County as reports of precipitous drops in groundwater levels in the Paso Robles basin continue to emerge. The battle over water pits large property owners, such as wineries, against rural landowners as county supervisors consider solutions. The city of Paso Robles has remained firm that it has enough water to serve its planned growth to 44,000 people — its population is currently around 30,000 — because of current conservation measures and incoming water the city has bought from Nacimiento Lake.

The Gateway Project would need to buy additional water from Nacimiento Lake, have it treated at the city’s soon-to-be-built treatment plant and then distribute it through city pipes, city planning manager Susan DeCarli said.

“Part of the (environmental study) will need to demonstrate how (and) if all of this can be achieved, at no additional cost to existing citizens,” she added. For Picanco, the road re-alignment portion of the proposal is a plus for the city, and overall, he said the council is open to hearing about plans for new development and seeing what the studies turn up.

“We’re always accepting to hearing proposals,” Picanco said. “We don’t always accept them. But we’re receptive.”

The county has to be on board with the plan as well. The property would have to be annexed into the city before being developed, and the local board that considers annexation requests, the San Luis Obispo Local Agency Formation Commission, would have to review the plans before they can come back to the City Council for consideration, DeCarli said.

“We’ve got a long way to go first,” she added.

Two contracts will come before the council tonight, both to be paid by the applicant.

The first will be a lengthy study on how the development would impact the environment in matters such as noise, air quality and traffic. The second is the water assessment study.

The water assessment is due in the spring, while the first public draft of the environmental study will follow in June, according to the city.

The city will consider awarding the environmental study to AECOM in San Luis Obispo for $232,784 and the water study to Todd Engineers in Alameda for $19,860.

Bid proposals for both studies went out earlier this year.

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