Neighbors battle over Santa Margarita quarry

As the application for a conditional use permit for a Santa Margarita property zoned for mining winds through the county, neighbors are taking sides in the heated battle over potential transformations to the community if the permit for the proposed Los Pilitas aggregate quarry is approved.

Both sides have made claims. Proponents of the quarry claim naysayers have exaggerated the impacts the project would have on the community while opponents say the quality of life for many in the small rural community would be permanently marred.

If the permit is approved, long time Santa Margarita residents Mike Cole and Steve Souza can construct the infrastructure for and operate a 41 acre rock quarry on property located on Highway 58 about three miles outside Santa Margarita. The applicants are seeking to produce a maximum of 500,000 tons annually, a portion of which would be recycled asphalt.

In step with Santa Margarita residents, some who have had heated arguments in Santa Margarita’s small downtown, public officials and staff have come to different conclusions about the projects impacts and whether they support or oppose the quarry.

Earlier this month, the Santa Margarita Advisory Area Committee voted 11-6 in favor of the quarry while county planning staff recommended denial of the conditional use permit saying the economic benefits do not override the environmental impacts.

In the 80s, a state geological survey deemed the 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. 

The planning commission will reconvene on January 8 to take more public comment and come to a decision for or against the quarry. Any ruling made by the planning commission will likely get appealed to the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors.
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