It’s going to be another month before the Goleta City Council takes an official stance on the proposed Willow Springs expansion. The council voted Tuesday night to delay its final decision on the housing project off Los Carneros Road.
The Towbes Group proposed expanding its Willow Springs project with a 100-unit development featuring one-, two- and three-bedroom condominiums. The estimated $20 million Willow Springs II project would connect to the current condos at 60 Willow Springs Lane.
Towbes Group founder Michael Towbes said he didn’t want the council to make a final decision on the housing development because he wanted to further discuss the impact fees. The developer did not want to pay State Quimby Act fees, which are types of development impact fees paid by residential subdivisions for public park improvement.
“We believe that multifamily subdivision projects such as Willow Springs should pay development impact fees, not Quimby fees,” a representative from The Towbes Group said. “This is an important issue because the city’s development impact fee program recognizes that multifamily projects that reach a certain density are entitled to reduced fees because of the benefit they provide to meet the city’s General Plan goals to create more compact, higher-density housing.”
While the Planning Commission unanimously supported the project, Councilmen Roger Aceves and Michael Bennett and Mayor Ed Easton heeded the Towbes Group’s request to postpone a decision until July 17. Councilwomen Paula Perotte and Margaret Connell dissented.
“I’ve got to say I’m troubled that we’re asked not to vote on this tonight,” said Aceves, adding that it has been a four-year process thus far. “If that is your request then I will support it, but we waited a long time to move forward on this. A lot of work has been done by your staff and our staff, and here we come tonight to make a decision and get this last-minute request.”
Towbes said his initial intent was to rent the units as apartments and will not change that for the “foreseeable future.” But because the project doesn’t include any specific restrictions, The Towbes Group can decide how long the condo units will be used as rentals.
A handful of Willow Springs II supporters came out Tuesday night, saying the project would provide much-needed affordable housing, create construction jobs and be a beautiful development.
One public commenter, Santa Barbara Audubon Society president Darlene Chirman, voiced her concern. She said that while the environmental impact report didn’t note any Class 1 impacts, the white-tailed kites would lose foraging space.
On the other hand, Peter Jordano of Jordano’s Inc., said Willow Springs II’s development would mean that fewer of his employees would commute from Santa Maria and Lompoc.
“My biggest concern is presently we have 28 people that work for Jordano’s on Patterson who commute from out of the area,” he said. “What I’m impressed by is when you walk the property it’s absolutely gorgeous. It’s a tremendous addition to the community and it will employ construction workers.”
A member of the Coastal Housing Coalition said residential vacancies are at historic lows and rents are high while elders are staying in their homes longer.
“The result is that the need for housing for new workers and future South Coast workers is even greater,” she said.
The council is scheduled to revisit the issue July 17.