The county is now scrutinizing proposals from five firms to conduct an environmental impact report for a controversial aggregate quarry east of Santa Margarita.
Benchmark Resources, the firm county planners had chosen before abruptly changing their minds last month, is one of the five.
“We’ve made significant progress during the last month,” John Nall, a principal environmental specialist with the county, wrote in an email to The Tribune. “We’ve circulated the request for proposal to approximately 30 firms and received five proposals (as of) last Friday.”
Nall wrote that the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors would be presented a contract after the Planning and Building Department chooses a consultant to prepare the environmental report.
The report would examine the potential impact of a proposed 23-acre hard rock and aggregate quarry, known colloquially as the Oster mine, four miles east of Santa Margarita. The quarry would be at 6660 Calf Canyon Highway, which is also Highway 58.
The quarry has been in the works since 2009 but gathered opposition last year when neighbors got wind of it.
They raised a number of complaints, including concerns about traffic safety. An estimated 200 trucks from the mine would wind daily along twisty Highway 58 and through the small town of Santa Margarita.
County planners had already asked for bids for the environmental report, and received three. In December, they sent a contract to Benchmark, although that firm’s bid was the highest of the three.
However, the contract needed the approval of the Board of Supervisors, and it did not grant it. Instead, supervisors directed the county to send out a new request for proposals.
The would-be miners, Las Pilitas Resources, said the delay would add months to the already lengthy project and make it costlier. They said it was without precedent to have a contract of this kind withdrawn so far along in the process.
County officials said they needed a do-over because of a “public perception problem.”
They did not explain the terminology, but the decision to yank the contract came after neighborhood opposition intensified.