Thursday, July 19 , 2018, 2:46 pm | Fair 76º


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Supervisors Postpone Decision on Santa Barbara Ranch Project

After a daylong hearing, the county officials decide to consider the development plan again next week.

After a full day of reports, testimony, questions and answers regarding the Santa Barbara Ranch project, the Board of Supervisors on Monday evening voted unanimously to postpone its decision until next week.

One of the most complex and contentious development projects in Santa Barbara County, with a history of litigation, opposition and politicization, the Santa Barbara Ranch proposal includes about 70 luxury homes on more than 3,000 acres of mostly agricultural land just two miles outside the western limits of Goleta. It encompasses most of the historical Naples townsite on the Gaviota Coast, as well as a portion of the adjacent Dos Pueblos Ranch outside of the coastal zone. This approval hearing is one of the last few hurdles the developer has to clear before breaking any ground.

Project proponents reminded the supervisors of their pre-existing right to develop on the Naples property, saying that they could, if they wished, return to the 1995 tract map of Naples, which recognizes more than 200 legal lots in the Coastal Zone.

“We have 219 legal lots,” said Stanley Lamport, representing developer Matt Osgood. If Santa Barbara Ranch rejects what the county approves, he said, the developer can still exercise his rights to those coastal properties.

Osgood and his team also brought up the benefits they thought would come out of their proposal, including the 2,600 acres of land to be dedicated to agricultural easements, and the drastic reduction of homes on the coast through the “Alt 1B” development plan, as opposed to earlier plans that concentrated the subdivision on the 485-acre Naples property.

Meanwhile, the Naples Coalition, a conglomeration of local environmental groups, as well as others opposed to development on the Gaviota Coast, urged the supervisors to reconsider their process, airing concerns over elements such as trails and public access, water and environmental quality discussed in the project’s Environmental Impact Report.

“There’s an undue emphasis on resolving litigation and comprehensively addressing land-use conflicts at Naples,” said Nathan Alley, an attorney with the Environmental Defense Center representing the Surfrider Foundation. The county is facing litigation from Osgood, stayed for the moment because of its participation in the evaluation of the Santa Barbara Ranch development proposals.

One of the most recent quarrels between the developer and the coalition has to do with an amendment to the MOU development process proposal made Oct. 6 in closed session — a decision that would phase development of the project between the coastal and inland portions of Santa Barbara Ranch. The amendment has not yet been completed with all of the necessary signatures at this time.

While the developer insists that the MOU provided for exactly this split, the coalition disagrees. Even former 3rd District Supervisor Gail Marshall, during whose term the agreement was negotiated, had something to say.

“What I can tell you without a doubt is that the MOU that I was part of approving linked the coastal and inland parts of the project,” she said, adding that in the closed session amendment the supervisors “clearly bifurcated that process.” Future 3rd District hopefuls Steve Pappas and Doreen Farr, both skeptical about Gaviota Coast development and the process, also offered their concerns.

On Oct. 21, the supervisors will take up the public hearing again, as they plan to hear the developer’s rebuttal and make their deliberations. Public comment has been closed.

Noozhawk staff writer Sonia Fernandez can be reached at [email protected]

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