Laetitia Vineyard & Winery will have to wait another month to learn whether it can add between 82 and 101 new homes to its rural Arroyo Grande winery property.
The project went before the county last week for the fourth time since August 2015, and it is now scheduled to go back before the San Luis Obispo County Planning Commission for another round Feb. 11.
The project has faced numerous delays because of outdated data, meetings running over their allotted times, and hours of public comment from disgruntled homeowners in the neighboring Nipomo area who claim the development will endanger already stressed water resources and add traffic through the area. In October, the Planning Commission directed staff to return with more information on what a scaled-down version of the project would look like, at the same time saying it would likely be in support of a smaller development.
The original project called for a portion of the 1,910-acre property to be divided into 102 1-acre lots — called an agricultural cluster, which allows residential development on farmland as long as the homes are clustered together and have minimal impact on surrounding agricultural uses. One house already exists on the property. About 1,787 acres would be preserved in open-space agreements.
County planning staff recommended denying the project with its original scale, saying it violated several planning standards, specifically residential density.
In a straw vote Oct. 29, the Planning Commission tentatively said that it would favor a housing development on the Laetitia Vineyard & Winery property if the size of the project were reduced to 83 homes (including the existing house), and if the development used one less well than proposed.
However, Commissioner Jim Harrison — who represents District 4, where the project would be built — has been an outspoken supporter of keeping the project at its original size.
“I would never approve 83,” Harrison said during last Tuesday’s hearing. “I support 102. If we are going to approve the lot, it should be 102 lots.”
The question is one of appropriateness of having brand new language — regardless of source — put forward in a public setting without the opportunity to reflect.
Ken Topping, San Luis Obispo County Planning Commissioner
On Tuesday, representatives of Janneck Limited, which owns the winery, said though they would prefer to build the larger project, they would consider fewer homes as long as the well targeted for removal was allowed to remain in service. They asked to bring the eliminated well back online because without it, the projected water supply would only cover about 94 percent of the project’s water demand.
The project was the last item on the commission’s agenda Tuesday, and after hours of discussion on preceding items, the commission had a little more than two hours to hear the revised Laetitia project. Most of that time was dedicated to questions from commissioners.
During that time, several commissioners raised concerns that arose while reviewing the planning staff’s findings. Several commissioners said they were seeing new information that had not been included in the staff report prior to the meeting. Because of this and to give the commissioners time to consider the changes, Commissioner Ken Topping moved to continue the meeting on Feb. 11.
“What I’m trying to say, basically, is that this has been a long and torturous process and that we all recognize that there are different perspectives being exercised here,” Topping said Tuesday. “The question is one of appropriateness of having brand new language — regardless of source — put forward in a public setting without the opportunity to reflect. I think that’s my fundamental discomfort if someone were to ask me to make a decision on this today.”
Any decision by the Planning Commission is expected to be appealed to the county Board of Supervisors.