Citing traffic and safety concerns, a divided San Luis Obispo County Planning Commission on Thursday rejected plans to build a new aggregate mine near Santa Margarita.
In a 3-2 vote, the commission denied a plan by Las Pilitas Resources to mine as much as 500,000 tons a year of granite gravel from a ridgeline near Highway 58.
Much of the concern about the project centered on the estimated average 273 truck trips per day the quarry would generate with most of the trucks passing through downtown Santa Margarita.
The truck trips would vary seasonally, increasing in summer months when construction activity peaks and dropping to about 80 trips a day during the winter.
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The three commissioners who voted to deny the project also said they had concerns about the safety of those trucks passing through a railroad crossing and near an elementary school.
“The impacts to the town are quite evident to me,” said Chairman Ken Topping, who cast one of the votes against the project.
Topping also said he was concerned that the quarry would industrialize Santa Margarita and damage its growing tourist economy.
The hearing was the third on the issue, and the chambers were nearly full Thursday with many in the audience waving orange signs reading, “Please don’t override our community!” a reference to a county planning staff recommendation to deny the project.
Commissioners Jim Irving and Eric Meyer joined Topping in voting against approving the project. Commissioners Don Campbell and Jim Harrison voted in favor.
The decision can be appealed to the Board of Supervisors. The applicants said they have not decided if they will file an appeal, said project manager Ken Johnston.
Campbell said he supported the project out of respect for the owners’ property rights and because there is a need for the kind of aggregate the quarry would produce in building roads and other infrastructure projects.
“I see the need for this quarry very clearly,” he said. “I think the impacts can be mitigated.”
In addition to the traffic and safety issues, county planning staff and Santa Margarita residents raised concerns about air pollution emissions, noise and the fact that the quarry would be visible from Highway 58.
The project had been the subject of two previous highly contentious hearings — one in December and one in January — at which opponents emotionally decried the negative impact it would have on the town and their quality of life. Topping said the public comments have been 2-to-1-one against the project.
The applicants wanted to build the mine on 41 acres of a 234-acre site. It was projected to have a lifespan of 30 years, and the property would have been replanted to restore it to rangeland after it closed.