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Goleta Council Approves Westar Mixed-Use Project

Community members echo previous concerns about the village proposed for Hollister Avenue

The Goleta City Council on Tuesday night approved moving forward with a Westar Associates mixed-use project to be constructed across from the Camino Real Marketplace.

After hours of grilling the developers with questions about traffic flow and other issues in the highly traveled area, the council voted 4-1 in favor of the proposed project. Councilwoman Paula Perotte voted against the plan.

The proposed village, slated to be built in the semi-vacant land on Hollister Avenue between Glen Annie Road and Santa Felicia Drive, will include 274 residential units, 19 one-, two- and three-story buildings, pocket parks, open space, stores and restaurants. Westar submitted an initial project proposal in July 2008.

The concerns that community members brought up then were echoed Tuesday night. Traffic congestion, a lack of safe pedestrian and bike crossings, and a negatively affected water supply were discussed by some of the 20 speakers during the public comment session.

Taller buildings obstructing views of the Santa Ynez Mountains were another concern.

Of eight speakers who stood in favor of the project, half were Westar employees.

Council members said they approved of the project redesign and of the housing in general because it has always been a part of the city’s General Plan.

Developer Peter Koetting presented the council with design and traffic improvements to alleviate concerns about Class 1 impacts, which included two aesthetic, one related to air pollution emissions and the other regarding solid waste.

Design changes included locating new, denser development along the Hollister Avenue corridor, adding parking and amenities, and lowering a market building to avoid visual blockage.

Koetting said Goleta residents would benefit from the project through property taxes, retail sales, the creation of jobs and “green” building.

Scott Shell, a veteran traffic engineer working with Westar, said traffic improvements include adding a new traffic signal at Glen Annie and Hollister Avenue, extended left turn lanes and widening of southern Storke Road and Hollister.

“Traffic will get better,” Shell said. “It’s not going to get worse.”

Perotte said she was concerned that no studios were included in the housing plan and that apartments would be too expensive for people to live there.

Many community members and those working near the Westar site weren’t convinced by the developers’ changes.

“What troubles me is the high density of the project,” one speaker said. “I think the city is being swindled by a sweet-talking developer. You guys have the ability to downsize this project.”

Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce CEO Kristen Miller said area businesses support the project because it will bring more rental housing into the community.

After four hours of listening and asking follow-up questions, the majority of the council voted to support the plan.

Perotte said the project seemed worthwhile, but that she couldn’t see the benefit to Goleta residents.

Mayor Ed Easton said he understood community members’ frustrations, but the pattern of slow city growth needed to change.

“We’ve really hit a perfect storm here,” Easton said. “They’re convinced nothing can make it better. The perfect storm says it can’t happen here. The one thing that makes it worthwhile is that we’re doing it for a damn good project. It’s really what was planned.”

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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