Tuesday, November 13 , 2018, 10:10 pm | Fair 53º


Supervisors Rescind Development Agreement for Santa Barbara Ranch

Developer Matt Osgood goes head to head with the board over his separation of the coastal and inland portions of the Gaviota coast project

The long and murky history of the Santa Barbara Ranch development slated for the Gaviota coast got a bit more convoluted Tuesday after the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to rescind the project’s development agreement.

The decision means that the development, sometimes known as Naples and in the works for 11 years, is likely to encounter further delays.

The three supervisors who supported the rescission — Doreen Farr, Salud Carbajal and Janet Wolf — said the conditions upon which the development agreement relies have changed. They said the developer had “decoupled” two portions of the project, one in a coastal zone and one inland.

The agreements for those areas are not yet effective, according to county staff, because the inland agreement is subject to final approval from the state Department of Conservation, which is expected to make a decision in the next couple of weeks.

The California Coastal Commission will have to sign off on the coastal portion, once the county’s submission of its coastal plan amendments is complete. After that, the commission usually takes three to 15 months to reach a decision.

Last year, the supervisors backed the project on a 3-2 vote, but now retired 3rd District Supervisor Brooks Firestone, who supported the project, was succeeded by Farr, who opposes it.

Developer Matt Osgood spoke during the public comment period Tuesday. He approached with a hand truck and hoisted onto the podium a stack of papers, binders and a cardboard box — all seemingly documents for the project he has collected for more than a decade.

“EIR one,” he said, slamming down a large binder with a width of 5 to 6 inches. “$1.1 million, and it wasn’t good enough.” Plopping down an even larger brown box, Osgood told the supervisors it represented the second EIR, an additional $300,000.

Osgood lamented the process he has been through, including two memorandums of understanding, two environmental impact reports, two transfer of development rights reports, 60-plus hours with the Planning Commission, two county councils and countless workshops.

“It’s shameful that this is even up for consideration,” he said. “I would ask that you all think about the precedent you’re setting.”

His attorney, Stanley Lamport, said Osgood wants the county to send all of the coastal project approvals to the Coastal Commission, rejecting any implications that he wanted to piecemeal the development. Lamport also said, however, that they reserve the right to withdraw from those approvals at any point.

“We enter into agreements, and the next thing we know is that you’re backing out of the agreements,” he told the supervisors. “We spent months and months going through this process with the Planning Commission.”

Lamport said Osgood was forced to decouple the project’s inland and coastal zones because the board reneged on its agreement with them.

Wolf took a different view. She said that when the project first came before her, the coastal and inland projects were the same project. She voted against the project last year, and was against the amendments.

“Yes, there’s a change on the board. That’s how it goes,” she said. “I don’t believe that my position has changed at all.”

What has changed, however, were elements on which the development agreement was contingent, such as the coupling of the project zones. Wolf said she didn’t believe the board should move forward with the development agreements.

“Sometimes things change — and not necessarily because people have changed up here, but sometimes developers want things changed — and that is indeed what happened in this instance,” she said.

Carbajal said Osgood had brought the ordeal on himself by choosing to separate the coastal and inland parts of the project.

“I think that started everything,” he said. “Today we could be putting a bow on this thing and everyone rejoicing. But instead, we’re at a point where we’re still far from reaching a project that is consistent with the area.”

Supervisor Joni Gray said she didn’t think that any supervisor had been inconsistent in the votes and she voted against rescinding the agreement. Supervisor Joe Centeno also stood by his decision last fall to support the project.

“I don’t know if it’s possible for us to come to an agreement about what should be on that property,” he said. “I made a commitment in October of last year, right or wrong.”

Farr admitted the issue was “convoluted,” but she reminded the public that the board isn’t rescinding its approvals of the project, just the development agreement.

Gaviota is within Farr’s jurisdiction, and she voted in favor of pulling the development agreement. She also directed staff to write a letter to the Department of Conservation informing it of the board’s decision.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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