More hotels and vineyards could be on their way to Paso Robles.
After a largely water-focused discussion Tuesday, the Paso Robles City Council unanimously agreed to begin studying how a potential 270-acre annexation project could affect the city.
The studies, which would cost $252,644 and be paid for by the developer, will look into how a proposal for three hotels, 114 acres of vineyards, businesses and up to 35 homes could impact the environment. The study will also consider where the project would get water.
The council’s decision to allow the studies represent an early step in the project’s proposal but doesn’t signal approval for the project. “This is just the tip of the iceberg for this process and there will be more chances for the public to get involved,” Mayor Duane Picanco said.
Only two people in the audience, including representation for Bay Area applicant Michael Furlotti, spoke on the issue. Paso Robles resident Kathy Barnett said she would prefer that the city move forward with planned developments and hold off on new ones until more information comes forward on the Paso Robles groundwater basin.
The basin is currently facing a dramatic drop in the water table which has the county Board of Supervisors wrestling over a solution.
Councilman Steve Martin said more information is a benefit.
“We need new data and the (studies) will provide us new data at no cost to the city of Paso Robles, which is always a good deal,” he said. “I think the benefits outweigh the risks on this one.”
Much of the discussion shifted away from the project and allowed the councilmen to vent their frustrations that the city’s water use is being lumped into the basin’s problems.
“I think there’s great confusion among the general public,” Councilman Ed Steinbeck said. “I think the general public needs to know we have planned adequately for our water and there is more water we’ll likely buy in the future as well.”
Picanco, touting the city’s recent water conservation efforts, even suggested that the name of the Paso Robles groundwater basin be changed to a North County basin name to reflect that the issues aren’t solely a city problem.
Even still, the project’s water use is on the city’s mind. The annexation proposal is not part of the city’s long-range planning goals so the development would likely have to buy water from Nacimiento Lake.
The studies also are slated to show whether the project lies over the dwindling Paso Robles groundwater basin or the healthier Atascadero sub-basin. Both studies are due back by summer 2014 and also need county approval.