Thursday, May 26 , 2016, 1:09 am | Fair 57º

Potential Buyers of Naples Property Back Out of Deal

By Gina Potthoff, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @ginapotthoff |

The latest would-be buyers of the Naples property on the Gaviota coast have backed out of the deal, according to a Santa Barbara County official.

After being noticeably absent from a July 2 county Board of Supervisors public hearing on the subject of purchasing the property rights, potential buyers Spectra America of Los Angeles and Cerberus Capital Management of New York notified the county this week that they were pulling out of the development deal, according to Dianne Black, assistant director of county planning and development.

She said no reason was provided.

The real estate and investment groups had been in escrow to buy the property from current owner SBRHC Inc., a First Bank affiliate.

Representatives were expected to appear before county supervisors, who have supported the Naples development project in the past, to explain their financial resources and plans for the development.

In 2008, the board granted approval of initial plans for a 71-home development on the 3,200-acre tract, which straddles Highway 101 west of Goleta.

The supervisors were perturbed that no one showed up to the meeting, in which the board decided not to move forward until they get more information from the buyers.

This week’s announcement is the latest setback for the Naples property, which has been under the control of First Bank after a foreclosure process involving the initial developer, and hasn’t found a viable enough buyer since.

Bailing buyers are a welcome sight for environmental supporters, who contend that the project shouldn’t have been approved in the first place.

“Development of this property has never made sense,” Naples Coalition attorney Marc Chytilo said in a statement. “And it appears that the latest prospective purchasers have not figured it out. Naples is an area of national significance. Anyone attempting to develop there faces the unrelenting opposition of Santa Barbara’s environmental community and must overcome an insurmountable series of hurdles, ranging from lawsuits, uncertainties over the effectiveness of approvals, a stringent Coastal Commission review, public rights of use and access based on historic prescriptive use of the property, and the absence of a certain water supply.”

Nathan Alley, attorney for the Environmental Defense Center and the Surfrider Foundation, echoed Chytilo’s sentiments.

“Naples is irreplaceable,” he said. “Our organizations remain committed to doing everything possible to preserve Naples in its undeveloped state.”

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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