The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday decided to deny an Excelaron LLC phased development project to place about a dozen oil wells and related facilities east of Arroyo Grande.
The meeting lasted most of the afternoon and included about 30 speakers during public comment. Excelaron appealed the planning commission’s decision to reject the project and give them time to address the public concerns several months ago.
Throughout discussions, residents cited fire and traffic dangers and opposed the project, while others saw the development as an opportunity for jobs and county taxes.
Supervisors, however, agreed the project was not right for the area citing fire suppression abilities, odors, oil spills, neighborhood and community changes and other issues.
District Four Supervisor Paul Teixeira said the decision to deny the project was a tough one, though sound.
“One wrong move with oil, chemicals and tools and the whole place goes up in flames,’’ Teixeira said. “We have a nice place where people live, with oil attempting to move in.’’
Third District Supervisor Adam Hill said “compatibility” issues made him decide to “move on” and deny the appeal, while 1st District Supervisor Frank Mecham and 2nd District Supervisor Bruce Gibson cited the serious “risks” the project posed.
Carol Florence, a principal planner with Oasis Associates, representing Excelaron, asked the board for a continuance. Florence told the board that the company, a subsidiary of Australian Oil Co., needed more time to survey property lines, have more public comment, answer board concerns, and mitigate impacts and safety concerns.
Florence stressed the economic potential for the area and county rather than the “misunderstandings” about the project.
“We need new success stories and Excelaron is trying to be one,’’ Florence said.
Florence has said the project would add about 100 jobs - mostly union - and about $300,000 annually to the county’s general fund.
In March, the county’s planning commission denied a conditional use permit for the proposed project, located on Howard Mankins’ ranch southwest of Huasna Townsite. The commission cited noise, neighborhood incompatibly, odors, damage to sensitive species, oaks, flooding and issues including the threat of wild fires and tanker wrecks.
The majority of the people at the commission meeting opposed the project based on beliefs that it would disturb the quiet valley lifestyle where trees and a cluster of small neighborhoods prevail. Mineral rights remained an open-ended question.
The Excelaron project involves crude being trucked along Porter Ranch Road to Highway 166.
The company had plans to staff the site seven days a week, 24 hours a day and improve the few roadways in the area. Improvements - such as widening - would be made to Highway 166 at Alamos Road. Huasna River Bridge would be strengthened and gravel would be spread on large sections of Porter Ranch Road, the company also stated. The crude would likely be hauled to the Santa Maria Valley or further south for processing, according to a staff report.
But taking the oil out of the area can also pose problems, according to a staff report. Porter Ranch Road floods when it rains.
Huasna Valley resident Rosella Ortega said nothing can be changed to stop the fire danger posed by the project.
“If one starts, how will we stop it?’’ Ortega asked. “There is no way I know of. The project is not right for this area. I hope they go somewhere else. It really would change my community a great deal.’’
Area resident Bradley Wilson said he feared environmental damages to “water” and other pollution concerns.
“Accidents happen ... then what?’’ Wilson asked. “I know the area could use some jobs and the county could use some more funds. I would have liked to hear more about what the company was going to do about the impacts.’’