The Santa Maria City Council on Tuesday night directed staff to rezone an area of Betteravia Road west of Highway 101 so that auto dealers who have expressed interest in the property could develop there.

The council voted 5-0 to add an auto overlay to at least 30 acres, 14 of which front Betteravia Road between College Drive and the future extension of Bradley Road.

No official proposals have been submitted for the property, but the council decided to take action after hearing that some local auto dealerships have expressed interest in expanding onto both sides of Betteravia, according to City Manager Rick Haydon.

With the action, staff will move forward to amend a portion of the Enos Rancheros Specific Plan, which was adopted in 2008 and governs 121 acres bound by Betteravia Road on the south, Battles Road on the north, Bradley Road on the east and the Santa Maria Cemetery and residential development on the west. The plan provides land designations for various residential densities, commercial development, roads and open space.

“It’s one of the last commercially zoned areas in the city of any large size that has freeway access,” Haydon told Noozhawk. “We’ve had a number of discussions with various auto dealers throughout the city as for their needs, wanting to expand, get freeway access.”

The council decision was helped in no small part by the fact that more auto dealerships could equal more sales taxes and increased revenue into the city.

Haydon said the City Council made a similar decision in the mid-1990s, when an auto overlay was added to property on the other side of Betteravia Road as part of the Crossroads development.

The area is now home to Toyota of Santa Maria, Stowasser, Community Volkswagen/BMW and Honda of Santa Maria.

“That’s the lifeblood of municipal government; the No. 1 revenue source for the city of Santa Maria,” Haydon said of auto sales tax revenue. “You’ll see a lot of cities have capitalized on it. We’re not the first ones to stumble upon it.”

Haydon said Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Ventura and Oxnard have developed similar, successful auto malls.

Presentations to the council noted that although many development concepts have been considered for the Enos Rancheros area over the years, no applications have been filed aside from a small planned 7-acre development at the southwest corner of the property. That recently stalled development, proposed by owners, included a mixture of office and retail space.

Besides unofficial proposals to expand the auto mall, city staff have also heard from parties interested in adding a large retail big box store and three to four other building pads on land fronting Betteravia Road and relocating an existing big box retailer along Battles, incorporating a gas station component adjacent to the location.

Haydon said proposed auto overlay changes would go to the city Planning Commission before they go back to the City Council.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.