Planning commission rejects Santa Margarita quarry
February 6, 2015
The San Luis Obispo County Planning Commission has turned down a permit for a proposed rock quarry, which two longtime Santa Margarita residents would like to construct on the outskirts of their town.
Mike Cole and Steve Souza are vying to build a 41-acre quarry that would produce up to 500,000 tons of rock a year on a property along Highway 58 about three miles outside of Santa Margarita. Following a planning commission dismissal of the project, they will likely appeal to the county board of supervisors.
On Thursday, the planning commission voted 3-2 to reject a conditional use permit application that would allow Cole and Souza’s limited liability company, Las Palitas Resources, to construct the infrastructure for and to operate the quarry. Commissioners Don Campbell and Jim Harrison, whom supervisors Debbie Arnold and Lynn Compton appointed, cast the two votes in support of the project.
The commission majority opposed the potential truck traffic the mining project could create. County planning staff, which recommended that the commission not award the permit, said the quarry could generate up to 273 truck trips per day.
Opponents of the project argued that the trucks would create noise, endanger children who attend a nearby school, increase traffic and impede bicyclists.
Project manager Ken Johnston said the quarry would create a maximum of 200 truck trips a day. His supporters argued that it is environmentally cleaner and cheaper to produce aggregate locally than to truck it in from a distance.
Hundreds of county residents attended a total of three planning commission hearings on the proposed quarry. Public speakers split about evenly for and against the project.
In early December, the Santa Margarita Area Advisory Council voted 11-6 in favor of the proposal.
Even if the county board of supervisors rejects the planned quarry, the battle over the project could wage on in the courts. Some critics of the county suggest that it is risking a viable lawsuit by turning down the project.
The proposed location of the quarry has a state overlay deeming it prime property for a granite quarry. In addition, the property is currently zoned for mining. Likewise, the county does not have jurisdiction to control traffic on a state highway.
Project applicants have two weeks to appeal to the board of supervisors.