Plans to develop Eagle Ranch on Atascadero’s southwest side have been put on hold while the property’s owners navigate public objections and city officials’ financial concerns.
Brothers Greg and Jeff Smith, whose family has owned the 3,457-acre property since 1964, have been planning a residential development for the site since the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Their community would include 494 single-family lots of at least 1 acre, 93 units of multifamily housing, 2,285 acres of open space and 16.9 miles of public trails. In addition, hotels and a village center with commercial space were also planned for the development. The land was to be developed in 10 phases over 25 years, starting in 2020.
The ranch was included in city founder E.G. Lewis’s original early 1900s blueprints, which called for the land to be divided into 452 lots on a network of streets. But the Smiths want to update this plan and have the community annexed into Atascadero.
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They had hoped to make their case for the development before the Planning Commission and City Council this fall. But an environmental impact report released for comment in February generated significant interest. Dozens of residents spoke at a joint Planning Commission-City Council meeting in April, when they were given the opportunity to weigh in on the EIR.
David Armstrong, CEO of Smith-Hobson LLC in Ventura, said the Smiths are reassessing their budget after receiving so many comments on the EIR and a fiscal impact report from the city that projected the development would lose money for Atascadero.
A group of concerned neighbors submitted a lengthy comment letter and want the EIR to be rewritten with responses to their concerns, which will be expensive, Armstrong said. In addition, the city officials are concerned that annexing the property will cost the city extra money, he said.
“A lot of things have come out that we thought had been resolved,” Armstrong said.
The Smiths have been paying a city-hired consultant to complete the EIR and the city for extra staff hours, which they want to discontinue while they reevaluate their options, Armstrong said.
Putting plans on hold doesn’t mean the Smiths are withdrawing their proposal, Armstrong said. They hope to reassess their plans by the end of July, meaning Planning Commission and City Council hearings may be pushed to next year, he said.
“It’s pretty unlikely we’d abandon the work done to date,” Armstrong said.
Terrie Banish, deputy city manager, said this move is part of a “normal process” and has more to do with all the public comments the Smiths received on the project.
“I think it’s all around the large number of issues they need to consider,” she said.
Although Banish said the city does require such projects to be revenue-neutral, the Smiths’ need to offset potential impacts is more of an issue.
“We’re staying the course,” she said. “The developer just needs to do what they need to do.”