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Water remains major hurdle for Dana Reserve project in Nipomo

The developer says he has the solution that will also solve major housing issues.
Posted at 1:22 PM, Aug 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-05 22:38:22-04

With 28 versions of plans, Nick Tompkins believes the future of the Dana Reserve will work.

For years, the empty sprawl of land in the Nipomo area has been a tempting spot for development, especially in an area in desperate need of housing.

The Dana Reserve is a massive undertaking.

Lead by local resident and property developer Tompkins, the Dana Reserve aims to be another jewel of South County.

"We looked at it and we said we've got a significant housing imbalance in the county," he said.

Located on approximately 288 acres, it includes 78 acres of open space. The plan includes more than 1,200 homes featuring a variety of housing options in 12 distinct neighborhoods.

"Parks in every neighborhood, 7.5 miles of trails, horse trails and connecting trails," Tompkins noted.

Plus, there will be 20 acres of commercial land, a hotel, village shops, neighborhood center, education facility, and daycare center. Road infrastructure in the area would also see improvements, like the Frontage Road and connection between Pomeroy and Willow.

Tompkins has spent a great deal of time figuring out another tough puzzle -- the water.

"Oh gosh, we've spent a couple of years trying to understand the water because the Nipomo water situation is kind of everything," he said.

Tompkins provided a layout of how the water situation can be solved by the Dana Reserve.

"That water, and I believe it is 2025, the Nipomo Community Services District has to take the additional water, 700 more acre-feet and if you think about it, they have a total of 1,200-acre feet available coming from Santa Maria, but effectively today they can't pay for that unless they really raise the rates on the locals.

"The concept of this is by virtue of hookup fees, $31 million of hookup fees, and only being charged at the more expensive rate for the import, they can reduce the amount of groundwater pumping they have to preserve the aquifer to the minimum level they can go to make sure they maintain two water sources; the imported water and the groundwater pumping," Tompkins said.

Studies, like the environment impact review, will soon be underway to see whether annexation can happen in the area while being financially sound for residents.

"The hurdles have yet been defined," said Nipomo Community Services District General Manager Mario Iglesias. "Consultants are going to look at engineering and financial questions, answer those questions for the board. They are going to look at how the reserve impacts the district's sewer plant, collection system, the water supply. It's also going to look at the rate impacts on the district customers. All these things are going to culminate in a study that's going to take six to eight months."

For Tompkins, getting this right means everything.

"We live here, we live about a mile from here. Our family's been here forever," he said. "There's a responsibility to make sure what we do doesn't embarrass the rest of the family and this project is something to be proud of."

The community will get to weigh in on the water process.

Once construction starts, Tompkins and crew view this as a seven-year process.

In an email response, San Luis Obispo County's Department of Planning and Building stated: "The Dana Reserve is currently on 'Information Hold,' which means that the Department of Planning and Building has received a land use permit application and upon review, we have determined that we need additional information in order to move forward with the permitting process."