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Business

Bishop Ranch Consultant Details Project Proposal for Goleta Business Leaders

Conceptual plan the focus of the Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce's Issue and Policy Roundtable

Goleta’s business community got a glimpse of the proposed Bishop Ranch development on Wednesday at the Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce’s Issue and Policy Roundtable.

The roundtable is a monthly get-together about the trends and issues that that may affect the city and its businesses.

Bishop Ranch 2000 LLC consultant Urban McClellan made a presentation on the status of the developer’s would-be project, which currently is in the pre-investigative stage, as city leaders gauge the mood of the community and contemplate possible impacts to the city and its residents.

What is now known as the Bishop Ranch is a 240-acre swath of undeveloped land in western Goleta. It’s bordered by Cathedral Oaks Road to the north and Highway 101 to the south, and is located between Glen Annie to the west and Los Carneros Road to the east. People driving past the property on the freeway will know it by the sole white farmhouse surrounded by a grove of trees, quite a few of which are now more than a century old.

The property was zoned for residential development in 1957 but rezoned for agriculture in 1980 by the county, a designation kept by the city during its incorporation in 2002. In the years since, there have been attempts to get permission to develop the fallow land, the last of which was launched a couple of years ago, with community forums describing a mixed-use project that contained upwards of 1,000 homes, and a local commercial area to serve the new neighborhood’s needs.

The current conceptual plan for the homes is not much different, with about 1,200 homes of various types and 60 acres of open space.

“There are things you can do on a 240-acre parcel that you can’t do on a five-acre parcel,” McClellan said.

The plan also includes amenities for and connectivity among the adjoining neighborhoods.

Revenue is expected to total about $67 million in fees during construction, including funds for transportation improvements, schools, parks and recreation, and the Goleta Water District. Assuming the new residents were not already living in the city, it’s estimated to generate $68 million in revenue from the residents who move into those homes. The increase in residents also would generate an estimated 600 new jobs and $7.6 million in property taxes.

This time around, as in previous attempts to develop the ranch, the question of agricultural viability and water rights is at the forefront. Studies by an independent contractor and the developer have resulted in findings that identify some soils that are suitable for farming, although perhaps not so feasible, given the amount of viable soil and the fact that the ranch lost its water rights years ago to the property that became the Camino Real Marketplace.

Another sticking point is the amendment requested by the developer — a conversion of ag land to residential, a practice the city has traditionally tried to avoid. And the addition of 1,200 homes has brought out concerns of traffic impacts on local streets.

While it’s still early in the process, Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce President Kristen Amyx said the presentation offered some food for thought.

“We’re all looking forward to a decision on whether to study this or not,” Amyx said, noting efforts to get the facts as opposed to ambiguities about the ranch’s soils and water rights.

Similarly for Goleta Councilman Michael Bennett, the meeting was an informational one, though the City Council won’t weigh in on the matter until later.

“It was interesting to listen to some of the comments,” he said.

One more community workshop on the potential Bishop Ranch project will be held Aug. 18 in the Goleta City Council Chambers, 130 Cremona Drive, Suite B. On Sept. 20, the City Council is scheduled to decide whether to move forward on the project.

Noozhawk contributing writer Sonia Fernandez can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews.

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