Moving the old Enos Ranch House, grading for roads and commercial sites, a lot is going on at Enos Ranchos, our last untouched land development in Santa Maria city limits along Highway 101.

As a city planning commissioner I had the privilege to participate in the long-range planning for this project. In the early 1990s joint meetings between the Planning Commission and county Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) studied the largest annexation of land into our city in its nearly 100-year history. As a result, Enos Ranchos was brought into our sphere of influence.

The next major step was in the early 2000s. Over the objection of planning staff and my fellow commissioners, I supported the alternative choice for putting College Drive through this property, and the accompanying annexation of land into city limits. With limited north/south roadways I believe the City Council made the wise choice that allowed the eminent domain of land by the cemetery and the construction of College Drive through the Ranchos.

The designated land use and zoning will meet many city needs. On the north section, along Battles Road, high-density housing will give many an opportunity to live in close proximity to shopping and schools. Park land will provide recreation and a host site for the restoration of the Enos-Buss farmhouse.

The commercial zoning will have a huge impact for our city to provide a regional shopping area, with the new Costco site, Lowe’s Home Improvement center and other large and small retail sites. Two new eateries include The Hamburger Habit, a Goleta icon, and Chick-fil-A.

The biggest impact will be the increase of sales tax and property tax, expected to be close to $4 million per year to the city General Fund. The recently passed city budget reveals we are short this amount in the two-year budget cycle just approved. We meet the city’s obligation with emergency savings and other one-time sources.

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Over the next three years our pension-related expenses will be increasing close to $1 million per year. In fact, cumulatively over the last five years pension-relation expenses have increased over $5 million.

To continue the quality of life we have become accustomed to, this project will allow us to maintain our public safety-related obligations. Currently the General Fund $67 million budget is allocated 60 percent to the police and fire departments. Measure U, the 2012 voter-approved quarter-cent sales tax, has been another valuable source of public safety funding, with 90 percent of the $4.5 million in 2015-16 spent on police and fire-related expenses.

In the first three years of the recession, beginning in 2007, the city lost over $10 million of the General Fund revenue. All of us were affected in one way or another by the recession. Our property values dropped. The General Fund receives 27 percent of its $67 million from this source. High unemployment and the related drop in spending and sales tax were significant, with a third of all the General Fund revenue from sales tax.

The Ranchos project will provide many job opportunities for different segments of our population. The resulting increase in sales tax, property tax, and job opportunities will have a synergistic affect with both direct impacts to the city budget and household incomes, but also the indirect benefits. The indirect multiplier is nearly 50 percent more than the wages generated by the re-spending of households that receive the direct labor income and outside the area spending here.

Trent Benedetti is a member of the board of directors of the Committee to Improve North County and a longtime local business owner.

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