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County Supervisors Take Up Santa Barbara Ranch Development Agreements

Board members say the holding company requesting the documents failed to provide enough evidence of its financial resources

The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday not to take action on transferring development agreements for the Santa Barbara Ranch Project to another company.

Developer Matt Osgood’s 71-home project between Naples and Dos Pueblos Ranch received approval from the Board of Supervisors in 2008, but it was foreclosed on by First Bank in 2010 after Osgood defaulted on loan payments.

The property was transferred to SBRHC Inc., an affiliate of First Bank, and the holding company is trying to transfer the 2008 inland development agreement and project approvals for the Santa Barbara Ranch Project to potential buyers — a Delaware limited liability company that represents CrossHarbor Institutional Partners II, BondRok Partners LLC and Preserve Communities Inc. — according to county staff.

County supervisors asked about the prospective developer’s reputation and financial resources, and ended up voting 3-2 not to take action on the transfer agreement at this time. However, because of a deadline and the county’s lack of action, the transfer is automatically assumed to be approved.

The supervisors said the company didn’t provide enough evidence that it had the financial resources necessary to carry out the development agreement’s obligations.

“For me, a $300,000 commitment does not seem adequate for anybody that steps into the role of developer for the developer agreement,” Supervisor Doreen Farr said.

The project has been controversial for more than a decade, with much of the conflict coming from Osgood’s decision to split it into a coastal and inland portion, despite having one environmental impact report.

The Naples Coalition, the Environmental Defense Center and the Surfrider Foundation have sued the county over the 2008 project approvals and continue to fight against development on the Gaviota Coast.

“I think you can count on one hand the number of people in this community and beyond that support the development of the Gaviota Coast,” Santa Barbara Surfrider Foundation chair Sandy Lejeune said at Tuesday’s meeting, one of about 20 environmental advocates who urged the board not to transfer the development agreement.

He and the Naples Coalition have been gathering hundreds of signatures for petitions to advance the preservation of Gaviota Coast, he added.

Naples Coalition member Cathie McCammon argued that too many things have changed since the development was approved in 2008, and that the company most likely has no idea what it takes to develop on the Central Coast.

“The development agreement was a mistake by the previous board, which was predisposed to development,” Gaviota Coast Conservancy and Naples Coalition member Mike Lunsford said. “The transfer ties your hands to a 2008 position; all the players have changed except us.”

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli 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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