A tweak of the long-planned development proposal for land owned by the Santa Maria Public Airport District will go before the Santa Maria City Council for approval on Tuesday night in hopes of helping the stalled project take flight.
The airport has proposed land use and zone changes for a high-profile site in the Santa Maria Airport Business Park.
The proposal affects 28 acres near the northwest corner of Highway 135 and Union Valley Parkway, and would gain a combination of airport-unique zoning and land-use designation to allow light industrial and retail uses in addition to public facilities.
A planned storm-water retention basin also would be relocated to the northwest corner of the site, part of which currently is being used to grow strawberries.
“It’s our first step in really moving forward with the business park specific plan,” Chris Hastert, airport general manager, said of the proposal before the city.
The broader business park plan, which has undergone several changes since the early 1990s, encompasses 740 acres south of the airfield, with light industry, retail and commercial uses proposed along with an 18-hole golf course.
The Santa Maria Planning Commission last month recommended the City Council approve several aspects, including land use and zoning changes, environmental documents and specific plan amendments, of the proposal for the 28 acres.
“I really like the project, and I look forward to seeing the development of this area,” said Commissioner Maribel Aguilera-Hernandez.
“I can understand the desire to be a little more flexible,” Commissioner Esau Blanco said. “I do think it has potential.”
Commissioners voted 3-1, with Tom Martinez opposed. Commissioner Robert Dickerson was absent.
Martinez expressed concern the project would compete with plans to revitalize the city’s downtown area.
Airport officials hope the newest changes at the key intersection will help jumpstart the development.
“In our effort to try to find different tenants for that spot, we have not been successful finding different public agencies or public facilities to go into there,” Hastert said.
Working with a developer and RRM Design, the airport sought the combination zoning to provide flexibility while preserving the public facility option in case a potential tenant steps up.
One potential tenant for community facilities use involved the Department of Motor Vehicles, which chose a different site on Santa Maria Way near Sunrise Drive for its new Santa Maria office.
Plans call for commercial and retail uses east of Foxenwood Drive, and light industry west of Foxenwood.
Any specific development must still undergo separate review in the future under the city planned development review process, city staff said.
“Until this process goes through, we don’t have anybody locked in yet, because there’s a lot of work to be done before that,” Hastert said.
Among snags delaying the project have been environmental challenges related to the California tiger salamander and the California red-legged frog.
“We hope to use the strategy that we did on the 28-acre piece of it for the rest of the plan to move forward,” he said referring to clearing environmental hurdles related to a habitat conservation plan.
That plan, now undergoing a federal review process, spells out mitigation measures Hastert said would not be too onerous but would allow the project to move forward.
Also on the agenda for Tuesday night’s meeting is a proposal to hike various fees in the city to boost revenue, plus a request by the Santa Maria Police Department to purchase an automated license plate reader camera system.
The City Council meeting begins at 5:30 p.m., and can be viewed live online on Santa Maria’s YouTube page.
— Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.