The county is circulating an updated environmental analysis for a 102-home subdivision planned for the South County as concerns persist that there may not be enough water to support it.
The Laetitia subdivision is planned for the 1,900-acre Laetitia Winery on Highway 101 halfway between Arroyo Grande and Nipomo. It is classified as an agricultural cluster subdivision because it would concentrate the houses, leaving the bulk of the land for agriculture.
The development was first proposed a decade ago and its first environmental impact report was published in 2008. However, concerns were raised that it did not adequately address several issues and it was sent back for further study.
The revised report contains more information about the key issues facing the project which are water supply, the effect of the project on Los Berros Creek and possible alternatives to the project to reduce the environmental impacts.
The report looks at various studies to determine if there is enough water to serve the development. It also looks at concerns that well pumping could cause loss of water in Los Berros Creek.
The revised environmental review is now available for public review. The deadline for comments is Aug. 26.
Meanwhile, a group has been formed to oppose the project. Called the Nipomo Hills Alliance, the group claims nearly 200 members who live near the proposed subdivision.
They cite water as a main concern. The project would get its water from a series of wells.
“Well water in the Nipomo Hills comes from the fractured shale rock formations, not a sandy aquifer as is found on the Nipomo Mesa,” the group said in a position statement. “Fractured shale is noted for being a very unpredictable and unreliable source of water.”
Project planner Vic Montgomery, with RRM Design Group of San Luis Obispo, said the company is still evaluating the new report. He said water is “one of the big issues we are examining very closely” but would not comment further.
As proposed, each of the homes in the development would be on 1-acre lots and would be developed over three phases. About 7 percent of the property would be developed.
Some 113 acres of existing vineyards would have to be removed to make way for the development. Those would be replaced with 140 acres of new vines.
The project also includes community and recreation centers, a sewage treatment plant, treated effluent storage ponds and other amenities. Plans for an equestrian center have been dropped, but the developers would like to eventually put a dude ranch on the property.
The regulatory approval process is expected to take about eight months and will include hearings before the county Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors, Montgomery said. If approved, construction would probably not begin for several years.