Shandon growth has obstacles

A study on an updated plan that plots future growth in Shandon lays out 12 environmental drawbacks in developing the area that are deemed unavoidable.

If the plan was fully developed, Shandon’s population could increase from approximately 1,200 residents in its 2008 estimate to approximately 8,120 residents in 20 years. The small town is about 20 miles east of Paso Robles.

The last time an area plan was prepared for Shandon was in 1980, officials said, but it was only a small piece of a much larger county growth document.

In fall 2004, the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors authorized an update.

The refreshed version, titled the Shandon Community Plan Update, will help guide county planners in land use, new infrastructure needs such as roads, how improvements would be paid for and where commercial development and new housing would be appropriate.

It covers the existing community of Shandon and approximately 1,680 acres surrounding it south of Highway 46 East.

The county has been working on the update with the Shandon Advisory Council as well as local agencies and residents.

Two components

The environmental study of the plan has two components — a study on growth and another for the proposed mixed-use San Juan Village Fallingstar project.

The Fallingstar plan lists 11 unavoidable impacts to the area as well.

Fallingstar, set for 271 acres in the southeastern part of the community, would have a mix of shops, offices, apartments and homes in two phases, according to the plan. Its first phase would support a maximum of 410 new homes and approximately 1,500 people, according to the report.

In 2008, planners sought comment for the environmental study, and top concerns included traffic, keeping scenic views and water.

Construction of new water storage and delivery facilities, new wastewater treatment facilities and transportation infrastructure improvements are part of the plan.

The county Planning Commission will hold public hearings this summer to make recommendations to the Board of Supervisors about whether it should approve the plan in the fall.

What is affected

The environmental report on both projects discusses how developing the rural area would change existing zoning laws, impact the town’s visual character and strain public services.

Here’s a closer look at some impacts:

• A change in the town’s visual character would be unavoidable. Even though it’s feasible to use building materials that blend in with the surrounding environment and buffer development from view from Highway 46, it would still greatly impact the existing rural nature of the area. Scenic views would also be greatly altered, the report says.

• Future conversion of prime agricultural lands. To reduce premature conversion of such lands, some fixes include ranking parcels for the appropriate timing of conversion by types of crops or rangelands.

• Traffic would be impacted. Even though Caltrans is scheduled to enter its second phase of widening Highway 46 East this year, nothing is guaranteed. As a fix, developers could be required to pay upfront for road improvements, as well as an interchange at the intersection of West Centre Street-McMillan Canyon Road and Highway 46 East. However, any improvements that fall within Caltrans right-of-way would be subject to state approval.

Alternatives to the plan were also listed representing five variations on how build-out could be lessened so the town’s surroundings are less affected.

The study is still in the draft stage, meaning the public can comment on its findings until June 29.

More information

• DOCUMENTS: The environmental study document for the Shandon Community Plan Update and San Juan Village Fallingstar project is available at www.sloplanning.org under the “News” section. The plan document is available on the same website. Those with further input on what they would like to see studied can mail a written statement by 5 p.m., June 29 to: Jay Johnson, County Planning & Building Dept. 976 Osos St., Room 300 San Luis Obispo, CA 93408-2040 Johnson is also available for questions at jgjohnson@co.slo.ca.us or 781-4573.

• DISCUSSION: The Shandon Advisory Council’s next community plan update discussion is planned for 7 p.m. May 19 at the C.W. Clarke Memorial Park Clubhouse, at Centre and First streets in Shandon.