About the Colony

Plans for Eagle Ranch near Atascadero draw concerns from residents

Last Thursday night, residents had the opportunity to make comments about the draft environmental impact report for the proposed 4,000-acre development of the historic Eagle Ranch.

The subject of what kind of development was going to come with this annexation has been discussed since 1999, when the property owners ended the ag preserve status of their cattle ranch south of Atascadero. Under ag preserve usage, ranchers receive tax benefits for keeping their property undeveloped.

There are 452 existing lots on the property that could be sold and developed by the ranch owners. The consensus has been that the property would require services from the city, such as police and fire protection, water, schools and street maintenance, so why not accept the land into the city?

Through countless hearings and public meetings, there is now a more specific project up for review. The studied review is reflected in the environmental impact report, which is open for public comment until April 17.

The purpose of the meeting last week was to provide the public with an avenue to address the EIR. “We’re here to get only specific comments on the EIR,” cautioned the city’s community development chief Phil Dunsmore.

But many speakers from the almost-capacity crowd simply expressed their opposition to the development, whether because of traffic, loss of night sky (meaning stars), the impact on existing intersections such as Santa Rosa Road and Highway 101, and more. Others even feared for the eagles that gave the ranch its name in the first place.

Some called the EIR “shabby,” in that it masked many issues as simply being able to be “mitigated.”

I’ve always believed environmental reports have but one purpose, and that is to slow and/or halt development. I’ve read so many that revealed negative impacts only to see city officials just vote for a project anyway. Both sides use the EIR, which is prepared at great expense by the developer. All questions submitted to the city by the closing date will be addressed and responded to by the city.

I doubt there has been any project in Atascadero that has received so much scrutiny by city planners, elected officials and the public at large.

The owners have shown a willingness to bring to the community a project that fits into the existing neighborhood. It is no doubt the largest single residential development project in the 100-year history of the colony. The annexation of the property into Atascadero has already drawn opposition based on last Thursday’s public meeting.

I initially wondered how the original ranch owner, Baron Von Schroeder, ended up with colony lots on his ranch anyway.

He purchased the ranch in 1882. Being a German native, his loyalty came into question at the outbreak of WWI, and after the government seized his property, it was sold to Frederick Peabody, who then purchased nearby lots from Atascadero founder E.G. Lewis.

One other owner had the property for a short time but never used it much. The Smith family has owned the ranch since 1964.

Lon Allan’s column is special to The Tribune. He has lived in Atascadero for five decades and his column appears here every week. Reach Allan at 805-466-8529 or leallan@tcsn.net.

How to comment

Written comments on the Eagle Ranch draft environmental impact report should be sent to senior planner Callie Taylor at ctaylor@atascadero.org or by mail to City of Atascadero, Community Development Department, 6500 Palma Ave., Atascadero, CA 93422. Phone: 805-470-3448. Fax: 805-470-3449

You can also fill out a web comment form here.