New Year’s vacationers reroute travels to Grover Beach City Hall
December 31, 2013
By JOSH FRIEDMAN
Residents from across California flocked to a Grover Beach City Council meeting Monday night in support of reseating Mayor Debbie Peterson on a regional air pollution control board — something the council, including Peterson, did not bring to the table.
Peterson called the special meeting to try and stem off an appeal of a city council approved conference center and lodge project at the corner of Grand Ave and Highway 1.
Even so, individuals and families traveled from San Jose, Monterey County and the Central Valley, some canceling vacations, to spend the night before New Year’s Eve at Grover Beach City Hall to ask the council to return Peterson to the APCD Board.
On Dec. 16, the council voted to remove Peterson from the San Luis Obispo County Air Pollution Control District (APCD) Board of Directors. In her one year on the board, she campaigned for a repeal of the APCD dust rule, which if implemented, would fine state parks $1,000 a day if it does not reduce the amount of dust blowing from the Oceano Dunes to the Nipomo Mesa.
Councilmen Glen Marshall, Jeff Lee and Bill Nichols each defended their decisions to remove Peterson from the air board. Councilwoman Karen Bright, whom the council tabbed to replace Peterson on the APCD board, missed Monday’s meeting because of a cold.
In August, Marshall voted to keep Peterson on the APCD board. Marshall reversed his position earlier this month because he was not confident Peterson could remain a fair and unbiased board member, he said.
Marshall, who is a county employee, also said that County Supervisor Adam Hill did not sway his decision. Prior to the Dec. 16 vote to remove Peterson from her APCD seat, Hill gave the council members gold medallions and offered to provide financial assistance to the city and to nonprofits of their liking.
“My bosses are not Adam Hill and all the other board of supervisors,” Marshall said. “I don’t report to them at all. I haven’t been in contact with them. They don’t contact me.”
During the argumentative meeting, public speakers threatened to pack city hall with as many as 500 people in order to persuade the council to reseat Peterson on the APCD board. The council made no indication, though, of plans to revisit the decision.
Two days after Peterson’s removal, Friends of Oceano Dunes (Friends), an organization that supports off-road activity on the dunes, sent a letter to the council criticizing the decision. As a result of the removal of Peterson from the board, Friends may no longer cooperate with the city’s plans to proceed with the conference center project, the letter said.
Last week, Friends President Jim Suty told CalCoastNews that the organization planned to appeal the project regardless of whether or not the council reseats Peterson on the air board. Friends objects to the California Coastal Commission’s removal of a proposed equestrian staging area and an RV dump station from the project, which will lead to increased traffic congestion , Suty said.
On Monday, Marshall giggled as he wished Suty luck with his appeal.
“Is that what you’ve been smirking all night for,” Suty said in response.
Throughout the meeting, Marshall smiled and giggled, even when public speakers commented on his frequent laughter.
“I do smile a lot. I’ve done that all my life,” Marshall said. “I used to really piss off my teachers when I was younger. In grade school, they’d yell at me, and I was just smiling away”
Marshall, as well as councilmen Bill Nichols and Jeff Lee, agreed to direct staff to write a letter to Friends affirming the city’s support for the organization and for off-road activity on the dunes. They said construction of the conference center and lodge can occur while maintaining open access to the dunes.
Peterson said the city needed to do more than address the traffic concerns. She suggested forming a committee to create a commercial dump station and selecting a representative to work with equestrians on arranging horse trailer parking. The other council members, though, chose not to pursue her recommendations.
Grover Beach recently notified the Coastal Commission that it plans to move forward with the project in accordance with the commission’s conditions. Once the commission received the city’s notice of approval, a 10-working day period to appeal began. The appeal period ends Thursday, Suty said.