Analysis clears path for Morro Bay to pursue buying land at favored sewage treatment site

Morro Bay’s wastewater treatment plant supervisor Les Girvin walks the facility in 2006. The city is planning to build a modernized sewage treatment plant and water reclamation facility.
Morro Bay’s wastewater treatment plant supervisor Les Girvin walks the facility in 2006. The city is planning to build a modernized sewage treatment plant and water reclamation facility.

An analysis by the city of Morro Bay has ruled out potential permitting roadblocks on major geotechnical, biological or ecological issues at its preferred sewage treatment plant site — clearing the path to pursue buying the land, City Manager Dave Buckingham said.

The Rancho Colina site is a mile east of the city off Highway 41. The city also wants to build a water reclamation facility there in a combined project that is currently estimated to cost $102 million.

However, the city may want more acreage than the property owner is willing to sell for a vehicle storage and maintenance yard, and possibly a public park, said Steve MacElvaine, who owns the land.

“I’m willing to sell about 8 acres, but they’re thinking 21 acres now,” MacElvaine said Monday. “So we’re discussing what they might settle for or if another site would be best.”

City staff members have been working toward developing an agreement with MacElvaine and his family that would solidify a framework for the sale of some land at the site. They’re still working to identify the best possible location on the 187-acre site for the facilities, and whether they want to move an existing area for vehicle storage and maintenance near the ocean at 170 Atascadero Road. The

treatment plant and water reclamation facility together would require about 8 acres.

An environmental analysis at Rancho Colina that passes California Enviromental Quality Act regulations still must be conducted before a property sale could occur.

Buckingham said the city still will plan for an alternate site or sites in case the Rancho Colina site discussions fall through. Those include Righetti Ranch, also in the Morro Valley.

“We have to determine where the (facilities) would go and ensure that it’s acceptable to the family and acceptable to the city,” Buckingham said.

MacElvaine said he initially thought the city just wanted to build a wastewater treatment plant and nearby water recycling facility.

The Morro Bay City Council opted to pursue the Rancho Colina site as its preferred sewage site instead of rebuilding the deteriorating oceanside plant, which the Coastal Commission had advised against.

In April, the Cayucos Sanitary District, which now shares a sewage treatment plant with Morro Bay, withdrew from the planning process, electing to pursue its own smaller plant. Should Cayucos change its mind, however, the Morro Bay City Council’s plans would allow Cayucos to “opt in” as future customers of a regional facility.

A final memorandum of understanding with MacElvaine requires the addition of a site plan and legal description of the property. An appraisal is also required.

Buckingham said the program and facility master planning that the city has conducted so far has been “nonsite specific.” The city’s master planning process will slow until the city can determine whether it will buy MacElvaine’s land or seek another option to avoid wasting time and money on specific site planning.

If the city buys MacElvaine’s property for the sewage treatment plant and water reclamation facility, Buckingham said, it will pursue annexing that land.

In the past, MacElvaine, who owns the Rancho Colina Mobile Home park, has expressed hope that his additional property could be annexed into the city, too. Although that could occur, Buckingham said, the city hasn’t yet made a decision.


The Morro Bay City Council will discuss the status of the potential purchase of the Rancho Colina property at its Tuesday meeting, which begins at 6 p.m. at the Veterans Memorial Building at 209 Surf St. The topic is item D-1 on the agenda. A public workshop to discuss the project will be from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, also at the veterans hall.