Santa Margarita quarry back on the table

May 15, 2017

By KAREN VELIE

Two years after losing their bid to operate a rock quarry in rural Santa Margarita, the owners of the proposed quarry filed a new application for a reduced project. In the revised application, truck trips are reduced by 64 percent.

In 2014, the San Luis Obispo County Planning Commission voted 3-2 to reject a proposed mining project that would have produced up to 500,000 tons of aggregate a year on a property along Highway 58. At the time, county counsel recommended the commissioners not certify the project’s environmental impact report causing some to question if the county’s legal department was biased against the project.

Proponents of the quarry claimed naysayers had exaggerated the impacts the project would have on the community while opponents said the quality of life for many in the small rural community would be permanently marred because of anticipated traffic and noise impacts.

In 2015, the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 against an appeal of the planning commission’s rejection of the project.

On May 8, the applicants applied for a reduced project, according to a letter to the county from T. Keith Gurnee, an agent for Las Pilitas. In the letter, Gurnee says the applicants have “taken to heart the concerns of the Santa Margarita community.”

“In response to the community’s concerns, we have come back and taken a hard look at the project, and have brought back a reduced project alternative,” Gurnee said.

The new proposal reduces production to a maximum of 250,000 tons of rock per year. Because the new proposal does not include recycling, which is offered at the adjacent Hansen quarry, the average truck traffic will be reduced to 40 to 50 trips a day, depending on truck weight. In the previous proposal, 136 average daily truck trips were anticipated.

In addition, the sponsors of the project are considering rerouting a portion of the trucks to Santa Barbara Road as opposed to driving through downtown Santa Margarita. This is anticipated to reduce the average truck traffic through downtown Santa Margarita to 16 trips per day.

The Hansen quarry sends an average of 40 percent of its trucks through downtown Santa Margarita with the other 60 percent accessing Highway 101 through Santa Barbara Road. According to a 2013 environmental impact report, the Hansen quarry runs an average of 82 truck trips a day through downtown Santa Margarita.

By reducing the mining at the Las Pilitas quarry in half, blasting would be reduced to 12 times per year and will only be permitted between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.

In the 80s, a state geological survey deemed the Las Pilitas site a rock resource area and the county zoned the property with mining as an approved use. Then in 2012, a California Geologic Survey report said California needs more aggregate sources to meet future demands. Rock quarries produce aggregate that is used in making both asphalt and concrete.

In May 2015, 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 in favor of the project. 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 she supported the project.

Hill argued that Arnold was untruthful and that there were no state reports of an impending gravel shortage in the process of being published.

However, the State Mining and Geology Board published a report on July 1, 2015, that says the Las Pilitas site has “significant deposits of aggregate material.” As a result of the designation, the county must consider the importance of the aggregate to the regional area before making land use decisions, according to California Public Resource Code Section 2763.

If the current permit is approved, long time San Luis Obispo County residents Steve Souza and Darren Shetler can construct the infrastructure for and operate a 41 acre rock quarry on the property located on Highway 58 about three miles outside Santa Margarita.

The county has 30 days to review the application for a conditional use permit for completeness.







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6 Comments

  1. R.Hodin says:

    The article falsely creates the impression that the applicants have filed an application for a reduced project. What they filed is the exact same large-scale original project, but added a project alternative. This way they reason that they would not have to pay for a new EIR for the project, i.e. same project=same EIR. What Mr. Gurney is proposing is a fig leaf that is intended to demonstrate flexibility or responsiveness to the community’s concerns when widespread outcry about project impacts forced the planning commission and later the board to reject the original project. But nothing is further from the truth. The project is being re-submitted now for the simple reason that there is a more sympathetic board of supervisors, which doesn’t give two hoots about environmental or community concerns, and will approve the full-scale original project if given the chance to do so by the (mostly) somnambulant public. The project alternative, described by Velie as “the project,” is a ruse.

    (6) 10 Total Votes - 8 up - 2 down
    • Jorge Estrada says:

      I can’t speak to how the Board may vote but I can say that the public voted for them so the will of the public most likely will be served. I am not going to slander either side, I will just say that my pulse on all issues today is that a vigilant conservative public is the local trend.

      (2) 2 Total Votes - 2 up - 0 down
  2. jimmy_me says:

    No need for the quarry… I have a bucket of rocks in my back yard that I’ll donate to the county. It should be enough for about three years of any new low-cost housing in the county.

    (6) 24 Total Votes - 15 up - 9 down
  3. Pelican1 says:

    Listen up everyone, here are the indisputable facts:
    No on shore drilling
    No off-shore drilling
    No tankering
    No rail tankering
    No nuclear power
    No coastal power plants
    No wind farms
    No solar farms
    No mining
    Limited hydroelectric
    and…no quarrying.
    In addition, now wood burning fireplaces, no lawn watering, car washing, “inappropriate” school lunches even if provided by parents, etc. etc. etc..our culture has gone mad..well we still accept violence in every aspect of our lives…so i guess we’re still OK

    (30) 66 Total Votes - 48 up - 18 down
  4. Jorge Estrada says:

    My hope is that this will allow competitive bidding for the new Hwy 58 and Hwy 101 interchange. Additionally the surface road to connect Santa Margarita to San Luis Obispo will need this standard interchange. This major improvement will facilitate closure of the existing dangerous crossings that terrify the constant stream of expressway traffic. 60 additional trucks per day will not be noticed compared to the 100 per minute that already can exist on Hwy 101. Today I called the Hanson quarry only to learn that they will not have any decomposed granite available for another month, I thought to call and check because I have needed it in the past and it was not available. Having local options may alleviate this issue too.

    (13) 45 Total Votes - 29 up - 16 down

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