Santa Maria Times Covers NICE Conference Nipomo County To City

The Santa Maria Times, apparently the only media present at the NICE community meeting–Nipomo County to City, has an informative article in today’s Santa Maria Times.  Mike Hodgson, Associate Editor for the Times writes:

An adequate water supply and completion of the Willow Road interchange to support commercial growth in five areas will be key to cityhood for Nipomo, county officials told residents Saturday.

If the community does become a city, it would have to find a way to make up a roughly $300,000 shortfall the county currently experiences in a variety of costs, such as maintaining streets and parks, officials said.

But when Nipomo could feasibly become a city is in question under the current economic situation — probably not by the previous target of 2012 — and the proposal could be blocked at a number of steps along the way, officials said.

Those were just a few of the issues discussed Saturday morning at an informational meeting presented by the Nipomo Incorporation Committee for Education (NICE) in the Monarch Club at Trilogy Central Coast in the Woodlands development.

About 75 residents turned out to hear representatives of the county Planning and Building, Public Works and Parks departments and the Local Agency Formation Commission discuss incorporation from their points of view.

NICE has been holding such meetings periodically to educate the community about the potential for cityhood, because if all other hurdles are cleared, incorporation ultimately will come down to a public vote.

Fourth District Supervisor Katcho Achadjian said he supports incorporation because it would be the community’s decision and NICE is doing a good job of educating the public.

“The time has come (for a decision). The community has matured,” Achadjian said, noting Nipomo has already set its own growth rate cap and developed its own transfer of development credits program separate from the rest of the county.

Chuck Stevenson, manager of the Planning and Building Department’s Long Range Planning Division, said the biggest obstacles will be infrastructure, water, a limited economic base, the cost of municipal services and workforce housing.

“Businesses looking to locate to a place are looking for homes that are affordable to their workforce,” he said, and the sales taxes generated by businesses are what will make cityhood viable.

Stevenson said five areas are targeted for commercial development. Those include Olde Towne, which is largely undeveloped, and Crystal Oaks, also known as the Canada property, west of Highway 101 and north of Sandydale Drive.

The others are the south side of Southland Street; South Oakglen Avenue south of the Dana Adobe, where another freeway interchange is proposed; and the so-called Downtown Core on West Tefft Street west of the freeway.

“Willow Road (interchange with Highway 101) is critical to incorporation,” he said, because it’s needed to handle the traffic generated by new businesses, particularly the Canada property through which the Willow Road extension will pass.

But securing adequate water, workforce housing, roadways and the commercial development to generate enough sales taxes is just the start of a complex process.

Paul Hood, executive officer of LAFCO, said the agency is generally in favor of Nipomo incorporating, but it must be financially feasible.

Once city boundaries are developed, proponents must issue a notice of intent to circulate petitions, gather signatures from 25 percent of property owners and submit an application to LAFCO with a $15,000 deposit.

That fee is just the start of what could become a $200,000 process with a full environmental impact report.

A comprehensive fiscal analysis would be conducted to be sure the county would save as much on services as it would lose in revenue, which Hood said is “one of the most important and challenging hurdles.”

Hood would then analyze the city boundaries, services plan, fiscal analysis, environmental determination and terms for transferring assets and employees and would either approve or deny the application.

If it’s approved, LAFCO would hold public hearings that could take several days and a protest hearing, which could kill the plan if 50 percent of the property owners object to incorporation.

If the proposal clears the protest hearing, an election would be scheduled. Even if the plan succeeds in the election, the transition of power still could take a couple of years.

“Then the keys are handed over to the city manager and city council, and the county says, ‘See ya. Good luck,’” Hood said.

Despite the daunting task ahead, Achadjian urged NICE and the community to persevere.

“Put together the pros and cons and decide if independence is worth the cost,” he said. “There’s a lot of challenges ahead of you, a lot of education. … Don’t lose hope, don’t lose momentum. Keep the faith and move forward together.”

NICE appreicates the Santa Maria Times for attending and actually covering this community event.  NICE, as is its custom and practice invites all the local media to their community wide meetings.


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