from The San Luis Obispo Tribune:

Traffic, property tax allotments and how to fund road improvements are some of the concerns about a proposed subdivision poised to be the largest annexation in Atascadero’s history.

The 3,450-acre Eagle Ranch could include 696 single-family homes, 50 multifamily units, a village center and two hotels on a sprawling stretch of rural hills and valleys southwest of the city.

The developers, Greg and Jeff Smith of Ventura, own the land bordering Los Padres National Forest to the south and west where the development is planned. Nearly 3,100 acres that is not part of the proposal will be preserved for conservation.

For nearly a decade, Atascadero has identified Eagle Ranch as a way for the city to expand — gaining new property taxes, tourism and affordable homes.

On Tuesday, the City Council heard an update on the project along with public concerns in a packed meeting with about 150 people before ultimately asking for further developer-paid studies.

Eagle Ranch’s development would include larger lots intermingled with smaller units, a central community park, walking trails, a village center and low-income housing. There’s also room for two hotels, an equestrian center and a proposed school site for an elementary or middle school.

But the roughly 15 people who spoke at the meeting said the proposal isn’t the best fit for the area and could use additional tweaking in layout, density and road access.

“We want to maintain the character of our neighborhood,” resident Lori Mello said.

Money is also an issue. Under the current annexation deal with San Luis Obispo County, the city would only get one-third of future property tax revenue while the county would get two-thirds. Since the city would be responsible for all public services within the project, staff says the project is fiscally negative for the city.

While the council asked for more studies on the project’s impacts, it directed staff to renegotiate the annexation with the county. The developer’s cost, largely tied to the various road improvements, is also an issue.

On Tuesday, the amount of proposed housing ballooned by nearly 300 homes from earlier figures. The project originally referenced 452 undeveloped lots on the ranch tied to plans by Atascadero’s founder E.G. Lewis in 1914.

Road improvements paired with much-discussed amenities such as public trails have driven the project’s density plans for more housing because the additional properties would help fund the work, said project representative Victor Montgomery of RRM Design Group in San Luis Obispo. Preliminary studies put the project’s cost at an estimated $20 million, he said.

Public worries focused on an estimated 10,000 daily trips initial studies say could be placed on Atascadero Avenue after the project’s build-out.

The City Council lauded the developers’ efforts to discuss concerns with neighborhoods and present alternatives, such as building larger parcels in some areas to better match the existing rural atmosphere.

Lesser concerns about water and sewer impacts existed, but were mostly allayed after city staff said initial reports indicate current supplies would meet the development’s demands.