The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved the controversial Santa Barbara Ranch development proposal.

Plans for Santa Barbara Ranch include about 70 luxury homes on about 3,200 acres of land from the historic Naples townsite to the foothills of the adjacent Dos Pueblos Ranch.

The 3-2 vote was split between 3rd, 4th and 5th District Supervisors Brooks Firestone, Joni Gray and Joseph Centeno, and 1st and 2nd District Supervisors Salud Carbajal and Janet Wolf.

“I think you could do better for the community,” said Carbajal, who nevertheless commended developer Matt Osgood for his outreach in the decade the project has been on the county’s planning desk.

Carbajal and Wolf expressed concern over the process, particularly what has been called the “October Surprise” of a couple of weeks ago — an amendment to the agreement that essentially separated the inland portion of the project from the coastal portion into separate phases that would allow for development in the foothills while the California Coastal Commission reviews the coastal portion. Former supervisors Gail Marshall, Susan Rose and Naomi Schwartz have expressed their opposition to what they term the “bifurcation” of the development process, which was done in closed session.

According to the developer, that phasing of the development was part of the Memorandum of Understanding agreement entered into by himself and the county in 2002. The last two (out of about 16) signatures needed to formally execute the agreement came in at the last minute during the Tuesday hearing.

The supervisors’ vote brings the project ever closer to fruition after more than 10 years of wrangling between the developer, the county and local environmental groups who have coalesced to keep the Gaviota Coast clear from any development. Before Osgood, Naples owner and would-be developer Jack Morehart was involved in a similar struggle with the environmental groups.

The decision comes just in time for Osgood, as the November elections look to bring in a successor to Firestone, in whose district the development is located. Third District hopefuls Doreen Farr and Steve Pappas are both known to be skeptical of Naples development.

Meanwhile, the supervisors who supported the project saw it as something like the lesser of two evils. Noting Osgood’s claim that if the development was not approved, he could revert to the original 219 lots on 485 acres of the original 1800s tract map of Naples, they opted not to allow for piecemeal development of the coastal bluffs.

“My plea is to consider making advantageous deals — locking up the land now by giving a little bit,” Firestone said. The development proposal also puts 2,600 acres of Dos Pueblos Ranch into an agricultural easement.

The supervisors’ go-ahead is also a step toward putting to rest the legal action Osgood filed against the county in 2002 to assert his development rights, and had stayed pending the county’s participation in the planning and development process.

The county is not yet in the clear as far as litigation, as the Naples Coalition has indicated it would sue the county over its role in the development of Santa Barbara Ranch.

The next step for the development, Osgood said, will be for the the design and permitting stage. The coastal portion still will need to be reviewed by the California Coastal Commission. If all goes smoothly, construction could begin by the end of next year. Osgood says he will continue to work with the community during that time.

Noozhawk staff writer Sonia Fernandez can be reached at