A group of property owners with industrial sites in Paso Robles ultimately swayed the City Council to alter part of a proposed plan to reshape the city’s west side.
The lengthy discussion of council members and a public outcry for rights protection lasted about four hours Tuesday night. Most speakers were against various parts of the plan, especially altering the zoning on 24th to 28th streets from light industrial to shops and a neighborhood.
“Don’t turn your backs on the people,” property owner Tom Madden urged the council. “The people who invested in this city.”
The Madden family owns a construction yard on 24th street. It’s surrounded by longtime businesses such as Golden Gate Petroleum, Paso Robles Tank Inc. and MGE Underground Inc.
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Madden and other critics feared such longtime industrial companies would leave town if a natural disaster occurred on their properties and they couldn’t rebuild because zoning had changed.
Tom Flynn Jr., part of the Flynn Family Trust that owns two commercial properties on the west side, said the proposal was an act “to seek to further limit the options of landowners.” The proposal, calling for mixed-use residential, affects what he could put on his properties.
The issues are wrapped up in the multifaceted Uptown/Town Centre Specific Plan, the subject of numerous public workshops and city planning since 2008.
The council was set to consider final approval of the plan Tuesday but deferred the decision so changes resulting from council feedback and the Planning Commission could be worked in.
Mayor Duane Picanco, a staunch supporter of business, led a unanimous straw vote from the council to add wording in the document that protects existing industrial land uses from 24th to 28th streets once the final project is considered.
“If it’s a business, I wish for it to stay,” Picanco said. “That’s just who I am.”
The $1.5 million, five-chapter, consultant-created document outlines a plan proposing new development guidelines for the city’s west side, including suggested architecture,
infrastructure and altering long-established sectors of town. All have the lofty goal of capitalizing on aspects of Paso Robles that city planners already emphasize, such as its central downtown and walkable neighborhoods.
City officials continue to tout the plan as a landmark effort that could mark the “reawakening of our history,” City Manager Jim App said Wednesday.
While the plan received criticism, praise was also heard for its goals to make the town more beautiful, profitable and livable.
The plan isn’t backed by a certain developer, but is instead considered a visionary wish list by the community as private and public projects are proposed through the next 50 years.
The plan also brings focus to the Salinas River, increases use of established areas and neighborhoods, and keeps open space. It allows for more efficient use of infrastructure and enhances commerce and neighborhood life, App said.
Slated to cost more than $550 million over time, the plan is to be financed by assessment districts, private investment, direct city financing and other government funding sources including grants, according to the document. The proposal “is complex, and it is not perfect,” city staff wrote in their report. Staff suggests semiannual reviews of the plan to amend details as local realities change.