Plan looks at Shandon’s growth

No one would argue that the small rural community of Shandon is anything more than a country hamlet. Centre Street’s two stores are testament to the slow pace in this crossroads 20 miles east of Paso Robles.

But over the next 25 years, this agricultural settlement may triple in size, according to a scaled-back plan detailing how county planners will navigate future development proposals. Despite development fees meant to foot the bill for a possible influx of people, the community will need services that the developments can’t fully pay for.

The second draft of the Shandon Community Plan Update was sparked by two property owners who want to build developments on their agriculturally zoned land. The updated plan was presented to the public Wednesday night at a county planning meeting.

“The benefit of having a plan in place is if someone comes to Shandon wanting to do something,” County Supervisor Frank Mecham said.

“We’ll know what they can do.”

The proposed document would change zoning laws and identify road, water and sewer needs, as well as map out expansions to police, fire, and library services as the town grows. Such aspects haven’t been addressed since the last update in 1981.

After reviewing the first draft’s studies on how development could hurt Shandon’s environment, services and rural character, county planners shaved a sizable amount from the build-out Shandon could ultimately support.

The new draft says the town’s population could increase to approximately 5,260 people by 2035. That’s about 35 percent fewer people than planners initially thought.

They also introduced a funding chapter missing from the first draft, released in March 2010. Planners say they aren’t certain where more than half of the money needed for new public facilities and services will come from.

Residents on Wednesday voiced worries about new taxes, higher water bills from the proposed water system and the possibility of those using septic systems being forced to use hookups to a proposed sewer. Others questioned where all the new children would go to school, saying developer fees alone wouldn’t be enough to fund the new schools needed.

In December 2006, the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors authorized planners to prepare the update after two Shandon applicants sought to change use of their agricultural land to housing. The property owners, associated with the San Juan Village Fallingstar and Peck Ranch housing concepts, paid $856,000 for the update and associated studies. The County paid about $100,000 in total.

Under the current update, Fallingstar would be allowed up to 395 homes and Peck Ranch would be allowed up to 422 homes, county planner Jay Johnson said. Official proposals have not yet been submitted to the county.

The update, still in a review stage, is slated to go before the county Planning Commission for a study session in February, followed by a hearing in March and then on to the Board of Supervisors by summer.

Planners translated three years of public feedback into zoning for mixed-use shops, short neighborhood blocks to avoid sprawl, housing for all income levels and mapping commercial areas “within a half-mile walk for nearly every property in town,” Johnson said.

Needed improvements

Here’s a look at some improvements Shandon would need in order to support the growth the county is proposing for the North County community:

Law enforcement: More law enforcement personnel would need to be added as the town grows. In 2011, the ratio of deputies to residents shows Shandon is already strained, though sheriff’s deputies maintain an 8-minute average response time, planners said. The current ratio is one deputy for every 1,140 people, according to the plan, which is a little less than half of what the Sheriff’s Department considers adequate, planners said.

Fire: CalFire currently serves Shandon year-round at a station on Centre Street, often acting as the first responder in emergency situations in a 400-square-mile area. As the community is built out, the existing station would need to be expanded or a second station built. Development impact fees could pay for the new facility and capital improvements, but not for personnel.

Community facilities: Buildings such as libraries, community centers, and health care and government facilities would be needed. Shandon has a small 400-square-foot library, a 1,200-square-foot community building and a larger community hall. Community members told planners they want a health clinic and more recreational facilities such as a rodeo grounds. Additional library space would also be needed to serve the new residents, according to the plan.

Schools: With a capacity of 145 elementary school students and 187 at the high school, Shandon would need up to two more elementary schools or one more elementary and one additional middle school, planners say.

Expansion of the existing campuses would also be required. One school site was laid out to the east side of San Juan Creek. The county said Shandon Unified School District officials have not yet responded to the plan.

Shandon Community Plan Update