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Orcutt residents share mixed feelings about plans for housing development and annexation

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Posted at 5:26 PM, May 05, 2023

In recent weeks, you may have seen signs saying “We Love Orcutt” along Clarke Avenue and Union Valley Parkway.

The signs were posted by community members who oppose plans for a massive new development.

If approved, the Richards Ranch project would bring 400 new apartments, 95 townhomes and incoming businesses to a more than 40-acre stretch of land along Union Valley Parkway between Highway 135 and Orcutt Road.

In recent weeks, the project has stirred up some controversy in the neighborhood.

“I live exactly across the street from the property on the other side of 135 and thinking about having 400 more homes there seems a little overwhelming to me for the size of the property,” said longtime Orcutt resident Philis Appel.

Orcutt leaders we spoke to say that while they are on board with the actual development, they have reservations about what it will take for the project to get off the ground.

“I think the development itself could bring a lot of opportunity to town, and I think it is a good development,” said Samantha Bakke, President of the Old Orcutt Merchant’s Association. “My takeaway though is I am still concerned with the annexation from the City of Santa Maria.”

According to Santa Maria city leaders, in order for the Richards Ranch development to take place, the project site, which is located in Orcutt, would have to be annexed by the City of Santa Maria to satisfy water requirements in the area.

“It is going to bring in all of these new homes, beautiful homes and all of these kids and students. Where are they going to go to school? Probably in Orcutt schools. And so, if Santa Maria annexes that property and a lot of the tax breaks go to Santa Maria, how are we going to get the funding for the town of Orcutt?” Bakke wondered.

She says in recent weeks, representatives with Richards Ranch have held community workshops to hear both public concerns and support for the project as it undergoes an environmental impact review.

Appel, meanwhile, says though she understands the urgent need for housing, the growing population density and traffic in her neighborhood remain a concern.

“If you look at that intersection today at rush hour, it is clogged like Los Angeles, and we are not Los Angeles. We are a rural community, and it would be really nice if it stayed, somewhat, that way,” Appel added.

As of now, there is no set timeline for a decision on the annexation or when the construction of the development could begin.

While a representative from Richards Ranch was unable to meet for an interview, their managing partner said another community feedback meeting will be taking place on May 23, from 6-7:30 p.m. at the Orcutt Oasis Senior Center.

You can RSVP to the meeting at RichardsRanchCommunity.com.