Saturday, October 22, 2005

What is the Ramada Project?

I guess this is another example where it's hard to define exactly what something IS, but it's easy to say what it's NOT.

What Ramada Is NOT--A Mixed-Use Project

In trying to come up with a definition of "mixed use" for this blog--you know, try to gain credibility by quoting facts--I've found that "facts" are hard to find. This seems to be the case with all of the land use issues I've been trying to educate myself on over the past few months.

Lots of gray area makes it easier to chase away those pesky community residents who say, "Hey. Wait a minute. That's not what they're supposed to be allowed to put there."

Like many others, I look at this project and I see a housing development with a strip mall and mini-storage thrown in to justify the demise of our last, large vacant commercial parcel on the 101 corridor. I see a developer who wants to maximize profits in a market where empty retail spaces abound while housing is still red hot.

I see an unincorporated community with no self-sustaining economy or hope of eventual incorporation--Heck, I'd settle for some hope that my kid could have a chance at a local job when he grows up--and a government that shows no motivation to correct that.

Too Many "Gray" Areas?

And I see a county planning department that is making decisions based on it's own budgetary mission without looking out for the long term benefit of the tax-paying residents of Templeton. I'm pretty sure our right to representation is guaranteed in the constitution but I could be wrong. It's probably a gray area.

Anyway, I did a Google search on 'mixed use project definition.' There are articles that describe the concept pretty well, but I've got to tell you I had a good belly laugh in the googling process.

Can you guess what showed up as number '5' on the very first page? There she was in all her glory: the Paso Robles press story, "Mixed-use Project Proposed in Templeton."

Come on. Click the link. On the page she was surrounded by mixed use articles from the Las Vegas strip and metropolitan Minneapolis. Imagine that and then our own supervising planner, Chuck Stevenson, describing why this is a great idea for a 40 acre commercial retail parcel in an area on the edge of town and surrounded by a tractor shop and a bunch of cows. Seriously, folks. It was a funny read.

What Is the "Mixed Use" Definition in SLO County?

The county will be seeing this "mixed use" phrase a lot in the coming years. It will often be juxtaposed with that sexy "smart growth" term. Some of the projects, like the fabulous Colony Square Project in downtown Atascadero, will be the real deal. But there will be many who exploit the terminology for personal financial gain or simply due to a lack of willingness to look at each project individually.

They will label all who oppose a project as NIMBYs and they will forge ahead with "political will" instead of trying to listen to our concerns and maybe recognizing that they are shooting themselves in the foot by plunking down a mass like this in such an unsuitable size, shape, and location.

If this gets built in a form anywhere close to what's on the table now, a mere mention of the term "mixed use" and Cliff and Harry had better start sharpening their pencils for the next big verbal spanking because the TAAG meeting for that project will have to be held at the football stadium.

Unveiling this project as a model for smart growth? Nothing smart about that.

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