Council hears neighborhood pleas


ATASCADERO — The regular meeting of the Atascadero City Council on April 23 was one of the longer sessions the body has held in 2019. Amongst more ordinary business was the continuance of zoning and code language being heard from a previous meeting, and a visit from representatives of the San Luis Obispo Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) and the County of San Luis Obispo stopping in to discuss future plans around the City's borders, their Sphere of Influence.

Proposed revisions in the City’s planning code went ahead as previously discussed around; Animal Density Standards for Youth Projects, [permits for] Mobile Food Vending, Lot Posting Requirements for Subdivisions, Neighborhood Notice Radii for Development Projects, and [regulations for drafting] Condominium Maps.

The City’s Community Development Department came up with another approach to clarify existing regulations around Minimum Lot Sizes in Commercial Zoning Districts, a prerequisite to the Council’s stated desire to host business and manufacturing parks, as well as revised regulation for Commercial Retail Vehicle Storage Use and Fueling Stations along the northern El Camino Corridor.

“For many years,” explained Mayor Heather Moreno, “people used a very negative term to describe Atascadero, and it has the word trash in it..we’ve come a long way in the last seven to eight years and I appreciate that [hard work]...what we want now is a professional appearance for our neighbors and visitors.”

She, therefore, felt comfortable approving the new handbook recommendations submitted by Community Development Director Phil Dunsmore, basically an organizational table with columns marking the items in existing code.

“10,000 [square feet] means 10,000, not 10,001 I don’t think we need to revise that,” she added, referencing the limit on outdoor storage before developments trigger a new permitting process in the discussed zone.

The handbook and code notes are not the only resources available to would-be business owners however City Manager Rachelle Rickard said, “if you want to open a business here, please, please, please come in and talk with our staff. The muni-code is a foot thick and that’s only a fraction of the laws you’re subject to operating in the state. It's free to come talk to us and we can help.”

While staff time does run at $100 an hour for processing permits and applications, as established by previous discussions of staff resource allocation, Dunsmore pointed out, “we have an [free] open door policy to come talk to us.”

Planning was a resounding theme throughout the evening as more than ten people booked out the half-hour reserved for off agenda public comment.

Residents from local mobile home parks sought relief from City Hall for the social ill of being driven off their property lots by real estate speculators, who’ve bought up parks in recent years. Those privately owned parks are traditionally the provenience of the elderly and low income and while they may own their homes, the increasing rental costs of dirt underneath them has left many underwater on their original housing investment, commenters said.

A business owner in the commercial corridor later discussed by the Council also stepped up to voice concerns that the activities of neighboring businesses were diminishing the value of his property as well, denying him the use of the parking facilities which are part of the industrial park’s layout.

The City of Atascadero’s contracted City Attorney, Brian Pierik, reminded Council that, “It’s not me, it’s the Brown Act,” that precluded them from further discussion of those matters at the April 23 meeting.

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