Rezoning plan by real estate agent and Justin Vineyards moves to City Council

Land north of Highway 46, west of Airport Road and east of Wisteria Lane in Paso Robles that real estate agent Tom Erskine and Justin Vineyards are seeking to rezone.
Land north of Highway 46, west of Airport Road and east of Wisteria Lane in Paso Robles that real estate agent Tom Erskine and Justin Vineyards are seeking to rezone. dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

An east Paso Robles property owned by a local real estate agent and Justin Vineyards is one step closer to becoming a business park with a road that would eventually connect to the Paso Robles Municipal Airport.

The Paso Robles Planning Commission on Tuesday night recommended the City Council approve a plan to subdivide and rezone three parcels that make up 212 acres north of Wisteria Lane, south of Dry Creek Road and west of Airport Road. The vote was 5-1; chairman Bob Rollins voted no and commissioner Scott Brennan recused himself, saying he does business with Justin.

Two of the larger parcels are owned by Tom Erskine and a subsidiary, Ranch and Coast Properties Inc.

Roll Real Estate Development LLC — a subsidiary of the Wonderful Co., the Los Angeles-based multinational company that maintains Justin as a brand — owns a smaller 23-acre parcel.

The project would subdivide 77.3 acres into 13 lots and one 134.7-acre parcel. The 13 lots would be rezoned from parks and “open space and residential agriculture” to “commercial light industrial and planned industrial.”

Jamie Kirk of Kirk Consulting, a land-use planning firm, said at the meeting that the zoning change and future business park development would create lucrative jobs in the area. It’s unclear at this time whether the Erskines would sell the subdivided lots or further develop them.

“This is a long-term project,” Kirk said in a phone interview following the meeting.

The Erskines could not be reached for comment.

Roads, trails and recycled water

A road intended to connect Airport Road with the west side of town, which would provide an alternative to Highway 46, would also be part of the project. The road would connect to Wisteria Lane and cut through the property, eventually joining with Airport Road. Building a road that would provide an additional connection to the airport is a city goal, according to the Circulation Element of the Paso Robles General Plan.

The Erskines also would provide the city with an easement toward the north end of the property that could serve as a 40- foot wide public trail between Huer Huero Creek and Airport Road.

In addition to roads and trails, the project would include a 14-inch recycled water main as part of the road development. Pipes would transport recycled water from Paso Robles’ water treatment facility — a project that isn’t yet complete — to other areas, possibly including vineyards and other agricultural land.

Residents protest Justin’s involvement

In the late 1990s, the Erskines developed nearby Golden Hills Business Park on 74 acres along Wisteria Lane. A Justin warehouse and storage facility occupies one parcel there.

Justin is involved in the recent project as part of a purchase agreement with the Erskines, said Steven Clark, a Wonderful Co. spokesman. Justin purchased the 23-acre parcel from the Erskines.

“Mr. Erskine thought it would be easier to entitle this land and our land at the same time, as the entitlement process can be lengthy,” Clark wrote in an email.

Justin’s involvement prompted several area residents to attend the meeting and speak against the development. Some also asked commissioners to look more carefully at the impact such a development would have on wildlife in the area.

“I think it’s unfortunate Justin is part of this deal,” said Carol DeHart of Vista Del Rey Vineyards.

“At this time, Justin is in a place of mistrust in this community,” said Amber Torrey, whose family members are longtime area residents.

The project would require only one oak to be removed — a tree that an arborist described to be “in poor condition.” Even so, some residents said they weren’t in favor of its removal.

“Taking down even one tree needs to be taken into consideration,” Torrey said.

The City Council will consider the project Aug. 2.

Lindsey Holden: 805-781-7939, @lindseyholden27