Supervisors vote down Santa Margarita quarry

May 13, 2015

los pilitasOn 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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The problem here is that this is going to get litigated now. Denying mining in a mining district is going to cost SLO county citizens into the millions. If the Mining Act of 1872 is controlling, this will see federal preemption.

Approve the mine, reap the benefits from the taxes, and put the legal savings towards our schools.


The BOS did the right thing. There is no reason to destroy a town with 160 to 270 gravel truck trips down the main street every day. It is not the right of one business who wants to make money to affect everyone in town with noise, dust, traffic, and ugly trucks.


“Speakers split almost evenly for and against the quarry.”

Those against it: trying to maintain their investment & quality of life

Those for it: trying make a buck off their neighbors’ backs


“Hill argued that state reports of an impending gravel shortage were untrue…”

Now our little “waste-of-skin” is an outspoken authority on the the sand and gravel industry.

Adam, please take two to threes seconds at the next BOS meeting and tell us everything you know about this subject.

Jorge Estrada

I was there—Adam Hill commented on his personal relationship with the applicants, nice guys, but set aside his previous good times, mouth full of meals and delivered a mouth full of words to articulate his excuse for a NO vote. As for Bruce, he struck like a quiet snake with his typical lofty rendition of bureaucratic support. And yes there’s Frank, he had a problem with the portion of Highway 58 that leads into the Town of Santa Margarita,”it has yet to be impacted by the newly approved Agg-cluster housing project.”

Lynn Compton intterogated Staff for a better understanding of their data, bringing unacceptable to a very fine gray area below acceptable. And as expected, Debbie Arnold remained grounded to the understanding of having to make difficult decisions today for the benefit of the future.

In my opinion, all five supervisors added something different to the discussion thence decision but only two voted for our future while three voted for today. Sadly this opportunity to provide the needed resources for today and the future took a big hit but the resources have been identified and they will be removed at a far greater expense, in every respect, at a later date.

So for now, No is the answer but our successors will pay and that’s ok for those who are now dancing to the music, while they still can dance.



Future headline, “Town of Santa Margarita, once famous for dancing to the music, mysteriously looses ability to dance.” What?

Jorge Estrada

Ya, we white hair oppinionest have had our say, it just to bad that most are doing good just staying employed and could not be heard on these public interests. Welcome to reality, the public forum is really for the priviledged who can understand the verbage. When we loose our ability to dance, through natural causes, we are gone but our choices live on for our successors to deal with.


Future headline, “White hair oppinionest [sic] participating in public forum apparently priviledged: says employed can’t understand verbage [sic].” What?

Mike Byrd

I can understand the concerns about significant truck traffic through the middle of Santa Margarita. What I don’t understand is why they couldn’t haul their loads north instead. I don’t know the area well but, on the surface, it seems like a simple change that might have switched Meacham’s vote.


North would be up Highway 229 which is fourteen feet wide and has hairpin turns.



I am glad you put that disclaimer in your comment about not knowing the area well. Scarlet’s comment is accurate and applies to the first mile of 58 as well as more than 2 miles of 229. That road is tight in places for 2 full-size pickups to meet. It would also transfer the truck traffic through Creston and either Atascadero, Templeton or Paso.

While I would have been OK if the project had been approved with more mitigation (i.e. widening 58 in a few places), I don’t know if the applicants would have accepted this. It really is the only sensible option unless they could hook into the road to the other quarry off of El Camino somehow.

Jorge Estrada

Mike, I’m glad that you don’t pretend to understand the logistics and seek resolve. Unfortunately we have decision makers that put their job security above reality.

Mike Byrd

Thank you for clarifying the road issue for me. Having recently spent a few days sharing mountain roads with logging trucks I can easily understand what you describe.


Oh, well, the Santa Margarita Advisory Counsil voted for it, so it must be a great idea because the people on those are the wisest in all the land and represent everyone fairly. Pfffft.


Take a look at the SMAAC council. Most were cherry-picked by the applicants.


What a horrible, one-sided article. CCN: what’s your angle?


Duck, go away with your typical liberal tactic, i.e. to attack the messenger.

The CCN article was lengthy, balanced, and articulate. I’m grateful for their reporting.


Funny! I thought it was the “Liberal Media” we were to fear!


Mecham, a RINO. An intelligent supervisor, in name only. When the chips are down, Frank will let you down. Another freaking stupid decision to please a few NIMBY’s and panty-waists who think we can live work and prosper in yurts and huts.

This place (county, state, country) is doomed. Brains have left the building. Just watch Roberts switch soon to save the Affordable Care Act in the face of obvious mega Constitutional flaw. I hope the Pilitas applicants have the bucks to sue our BOS and prevail in an obvious mining district. Frank, WHAT were you thinking when you BLEW THIS ONE ? Geez.


Residents in the Santa Margarita area have made large investments in their homes and properties and the impact on the value of their properties must be considered. Quality of life is a major percentage of their property value. One property owner operating a gravel mine doesn’t get to damage the property rights of hundreds of other property owners unless they can clearly demonstrate that they can mitigate the negative impact by balancing them with positive impact on the broader community. If the mine had been opened 50 years ago, it would be allowed to continue to operate because the other property owners in the area would be able to factor that into their investment decisions.


If what drives by on the road mattered, affected property value and quality of life, Santa Margaritans would be up in arms over daily, hourly, constantly shaking 110+ DB motorcycles and Flowmaster trucks. I don’t see them protesting en masse, so if they can ignore American Thunder from motorcycle idiots, they can ignore a little noise from prosperity and commerce hauling gravel to make somebody’s life or dwelling nicer.


Simply noise from prosperity, huh? Just yesterday morning, I was cut off- yes actually cut off, by a Cole Farms truck leaving the Cole residence. (Didn’t think they were able to operate from that location anymore…)The driver rolled through the stop at 58, causing a driver to swerve into oncoming traffic. He then did not stop at the RR crossing and rolled through the stop to El Camino. Yeah, that’s the guy I want in charge of my and my family’s safety. That’s the guy I trust to do the right thing. And gravel does not fly off the backs of motorcycles. Honestly you people.


Ah, here you are again LameCommenter.


No, the county is doomed because people like you demand absolutism. Mecham voted to put Debbie in the chair and he was a hero to you and an enemy to the others. Now he votes with them and you’re saying he’s to blame for the end of the world and Obamacare.

In reality, what we need is more people like Mecham.


Hello LameCommenter.