The San Luis Obispo County Planning Commission was poised Wednesday to tackle two planned days of hearings on the proposed Dana Reserve housing development but instead decided to delay the discussion to a later date.
The hearings, set for on Wednesday and Thursday, were postponed until Oct. 23 and 24 following a discussion by the Planning Commission over the amount of time county staff and the public had to review the project proposal and final environmental impact report.
Allison Martinez, co-founder of the Nipomo Action Committee — a group that opposes the Dana Reserve project in its current form — said the delay will benefit the Planning Commission’s review of the project.
“This project is so large and complex, and the EIR is so enormous, that it will take an extensive time for the commission and the public to review all the data presented,” Martinez said during public comment. “I think we’re all a little on the same page in wanting to be deep, detailed and thorough in our analysis.”
Why was the hearing delayed?
According to its final environmental impact report, Dana Reserve would add 1,318 homes to a 288-acre plot of land in Nipomo that’s currently occupied by around 3,000 native oak trees.
The development would feature housing at different levels of size and affordability spread across 10 neighborhoods, including 104 affordable units built by People’s Self-Help Housing, a Central Coast nonprofit housing organization.
Over the past two years, many nearby Nipomo neighbors have organized in opposition to the project, citing the projected 10-year buildout, pollution, traffic impacts, population increases and the destruction of the site’s oak tree habitat as some of the core reasons for opposing the project in its current form.
During the July 24 meeting, supporters and opponents voiced their opinions on the project, with Martinez criticizing the amount of time between the release of the project’s final environmental impact report on Aug. 4 and the now-postponed Planning Commission hearings set for Aug. 30 and 31.
“We need to come back and get a compromise with the project,” Martinez told The Tribune in July. “It sounds like that’s what the community wants.”
On Aug. 22, District 4 Supervisor Jimmy Paulding wrote a letter to the Planning Commission asking for more time for review.
“I am not taking a position on this Project until the Board of Supervisors hears the Project,” Paulding said in the letter. “I simply want to assure that all information is heard, reviewed and considered.”
That sentiment was echoed by the roughly 40 NAC members who comprised the majority of the members of the public who attended Wednesday’s meeting.
At the beginning of the hearing, San Luis Obispo County planning manager Airlin Singewald said the county’s planning staff was aware of and supported the public requests for a continuance.
Singewald said Tompkins similarly submitted a formal request for a continuance Tuesday.
Tompkins said while the continuance introduces the challenges of the “undeniable reality of potential delays” in the project’s approval and potential construction phases, it was important to have as many voices and opinions represented.
“The call from the community for additional time to meticulously review the final environmental impact report has been acknowledged,” Tompkins said during a brief presentation to the Planning Commission. “Many of the project supporters work full time and have young children. In an effort to be considerate of their time, we have communicated that we support a continuance and their participation is a priority for the next meeting.”
Due to the possibility of a continuance, the Dana Reserve Facebook page notified its supporters ahead of the hearing that they may not need to attend out of respect for their time and work schedules, a spokesperson for the project told The Tribune. NKT Commercial’s attorney was also not present for that same reason.
Martinez recommended the next hearings be held on the weekend or in the evening to allow for more members of the public to attend and voice their opinions.
After some deliberation, the Planning Commission ultimately allowed a public comment period on the continuance, before voting 5-0 to move forward with the continuance.
What’s next for Dana Reserve?
The Dana Reserve project will next appear before the Planning Commission on Sept. 28 for a study session at a regularly scheduled Planning Commission meeting, before returning for the postponed hearings on Oct. 23 and 24.