Pismo Beach leaders scored a victory Thursday by gaining an opportunity to expand the city’s future footprint. Along with the victory, however, came strict limitations that could hinder future development from ever gaining a foothold.
Over objections from South County residents, the San Luis Obispo Local Agency Formation Commission, which governs annexations, agreed to increase Pismo Beach’s “sphere of influence” in the Price Canyon area.
In a 5-2 vote, the board added a 250-acre parcel known as the “Godfrey” property to the sphere of influence — defined by LAFCO as the area in which the city could expand outside its city limits in the next 20 years — that some local residents have been lobbying hard to keep out.
With the 250-acre property included, there are now five parcels in Pismo Beach’s sphere of influence totaling more than 1,300 acres that, if annexed to the city and developed, could bring from 600 to more than 1,000 homes to Pismo Beach.
Vineyards, hotels and a nine-hole golf course are also part of a vision for some of the properties in Price Canyon.
But if the owners of those properties ever want to develop, they must meet conditions that LAFCO Executive Officer David Church said are the most restrictive the board has ever placed on a city’s sphere of influence.
LAFCO, composed of county and city officials, sets spheres of influence and approves annexations. A property has to be added to a city’s sphere of influence before it can be considered for annexation.
The conditions require future development to have an adequate, sustainable and available water supply; prohibit developers from tapping into an underground aquifer for any use; and discourage sprawl by requiring any proposed projects be phased so that land nearer to the city’s current limits is developed first.
Pismo Beach will also be required to give LAFCO an assessment of all vacant or underutilized parcels inside the city.
Board member Ed Eby, who sits on the Nipomo services district board, said he supported the conditions but worried that approving the updated sphere of influence would give the developers false hope.
“I don’t like leading developers down the path of giving them false optimism,” he said. “I think it’s a long shot that they’ll get the water within any reasonable period of time.”
The conditions also apply to the Los Robles del Mar proposal, a development that includes 252 single-family homes and 60 senior citizen residences on a 182-acre site bordered by Oak Park Boulevard, east of James Way. In 2008, LAFCO denied Pismo Beach the ability to annex the land because the board didn’t believe the project included enough water to meet its needs.
The Pismo Beach City Council has approved and submitted to LAFCO another request for annexation, which the board could consider in several months.
Church said the conditions were shaped based in part on some of the many letters, emails, petitions and postcards that LAFCO has received from residents living in Pismo Beach and outside its city limits with concerns about water, increased traffic and the loss of open space.
Pismo Beach officials have stressed that road and other infrastructure will be paid for by developers, but fears remain that residents who live in the county might end up paying for improvements to county roads used to access future developments.
“A huge development is being proposed on the doorstep of a rural community,” said Jackie Relyea, who lives on property next to the Godfrey parcel. “I fear the influence that Pismo Beach and the developers will have over this property.”
Two board members voted against adding the property to the sphere of influence: Muril Clift, who sits on the Cambria Community Services District board, and county Supervisor Bruce Gibson, who called adding the Godfrey property “premature.” Gibson also suggested the case could be made for reducing — not increasing — Pismo Beach’s sphere of influence. But LAFCO and Pismo Beach officials say adding it allows the city and property owners to plan for development of some of the properties as a unit.
“Including the property in the sphere allows us to thoroughly and definitively answer the questions that have been raised,” said David Watson, a planning consultant for owners of three of the four properties in the Price Canyon plan.
Others spoke in support of the tax revenue, increased housing and jobs that future projects could bring.
“New homes bring new families who come to raise their children, support their local businesses and enroll children in schools,” said John Sorgenfrei, a former Pismo Beach planning commissioner. “I hope today you will help Pismo plan for its future.”