Supervisors vote down Santa Margarita quarry
May 13, 2015
On a 3-2 vote Tuesday, the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors rejected a Santa Margarita rock quarry proposal, making litigation the only route remaining for two longtime residents of the rural community to continue pursuing their mining plans.
Supervisors Bruce Gibson, Adam Hill and Frank Mecham voted against the quarry plan after a day-long hearing, while supervisors Debbie Arnold and Lynn Compton cast the two votes if favor of the project. Gibson said he was opposed to the project based on county staffs’ list of denial findings including noise, truck traffic and aesthetics.
Hill argued that state reports of an impending gravel shortage were untrue, while Mecham said he wanted to protect Santa Margarita from truck traffic.
Arnold noted state reports of an impending shortage of aggregate needed for the construction of low-cost housing and road repairs as one of her reason for supporting the project.
Compton questioned staff on why they approved the neighboring Hanson Quarry through a different set of standards such as estimating daily trips on each truck carrying 25 tons of gravel while the Las Pilitas Quarry would transport only 20.2 tons per trip. Staff said the use of different metrics was because staff had actual numbers for the Hanson Quarry and with Las Pilitas they used worst case scenarios.
During a methodical questioning of staff and the applicant, Compton noted discrepancies in most of staffs’ denial findings.
The supervisors were voting on an appeal filed by project applicants Mike Cole and Steve Souza, who are seeking to build a 41-acre quarry.
The mining project would produce up to 500,000 tons of rock a year on a property along Highway 58 about three miles outside of Santa Margarita. Cole and Souza appealed a decision made by the county planning commission in February to reject a conditional use permit application.
The permit would have allowed Cole and Souza’s limited liability company, Las Pilitas Resources, to construct the infrastructure for and to operate the quarry. The board of supervisors upheld the decision made by the planning commission.
Opponents of the project complained about the potential truck traffic the quarry would create. County planning staff said the mining operation could generate up to 273 truck trips a day.
Project critics argued the trucks would create noise, endanger children who attend a nearby school, increase traffic and impede bicyclists.
Supporters of the quarry proposal argued that it is environmentally cleaner and cheaper to produce aggregate locally than to truck it from a distance.
The site of the mining project has a state overlay deeming it prime property for a granite quarry. In addition, the property is currently zoned for mining, and the county does not have jurisdiction to control traffic on a state highway.
Some critics of local government suggest the county is risking a viable lawsuit by denying the project. Santa Margarita attorney Sophie Treder already assisted Cole and Souza with the permit application process.
Before the planning commission rejected the quarry proposal, the Santa Margarita Area Advisory Council voted 11-6 in favor of the project.
Hundreds of county residents attended a series of hearings on the project. Speakers split almost evenly for and against the quarry.
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