State joins Hearst Ranch negotiations on development rights

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. -- California is in negotiations to buy development rights to the 81,277-acre Hearst Ranch.

The deal could cost $100 million, The Tribune of San Luis Obispo reported Friday.

The tract of coastal beach, grassland and forest about 200 miles north of Los Angeles already has a state park on the site where publisher William Randolph Hearst built his lavish castle.

The California Coastal Conservancy has been the state's chief negotiator, Resources Secretary Mary Nichols said Thursday. Other agencies involved in the discussions are the Wildlife Conservation Board, State Parks and Department of Fish and Game.

"I think it's great," said Doug Buckmaster, president of Friends of the RanchLand. "It's further proof that the deal is going ahead."

The conservancy announced earlier this year that it had signed an option to purchase the development rights for the ranch. The private nonprofit agency works with communities, landowners and government agencies to preserve threatened lands.

Under the agreement, Hearst would retain ownership while the public would get access to 18 miles of oceanfront. Development would be limited to a small resort hotel and 27 homes.

The state and the conservancy are developing studies of the ranch's resources and estimated value.


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