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Sunday, December 9 , 2018, 7:19 pm | Fair 56º


Goleta Planning Commission Gives Bank Project a Green Light

The Towbes Group plans to put a Montecito Bank & Trust branch and office building on Hollister Avenue

The Goleta Planning Commission has approved a project that would put a bank at one of the city’s busiest intersections, on a corner lot that was last used as a gas station.

Michael Towbes’ Montecito Bank & Trust project got the green light on Monday, paving the way for a bank and office building at 6900 Hollister Ave., property owned by the Nassau Land Company.

Plans include a single-story building of a little more than 6,000 square feet with two drive-up teller stations, parking and additional landscaping.

In its unanimous decision to push the project forward, the Planning Commission voted to recommend to the Goleta City Council a slew of approvals, including a General Plan amendment to change the lot’s designation from commercial to office or institutional, a corresponding rezone of the property and conditional use permits for the drive-up stations. A lot line adjustment will be necessary between 6900 Hollister Ave. and the adjacent 6950 Hollister Ave., also owned by the Nassau Land Company, in order to accommodate a proposed reciprocal parking scheme.

The property’s former use as a gas station was a benefit to the project’s proponents, as it made it easy to demonstrate the benefits of the new project in terms of traffic and air quality. Soil and groundwater remediation efforts are under way at the site. As part of the project’s conditions of approval, the Towbes Group will offer rental assistance programs to the employees of the site’s main tenant, Montecito Bank & Trust, as well as workers in the leased office space, and homebuyers’ assistance programs to bank employees.

Upon the recommendation from staff, the commission turned down a request from the developers to alter the project’s parking design, despite Towbes’ assertions that the new design, which would eliminate the concrete wheel stops at the head of each parking space and provide more landscaping, was the more environmentally friendly option.

Staff also will have to work with the applicants to clear up a mistaken assumption that the applicant would offer 10 feet of Hollister Avenue frontage to the city for a public right-of-way. The project is designed to allow for that dedication in the future, Towbes said, but there was no offer of that sort on the table. Staff also will look into the possibility of a reciprocal use agreement for the showers at the Storke-Hollister Research Center on the adjacent lot.

Meanwhile, the year may be winding down for the Goleta City Council and Planning Commission, but there will be plenty for them to come back to as they resume their work in January, much of it involving western Goleta. Among the projects listed by Planning and Environmental Services Director Steve Chase are the abandonment of oil and water wells on Ellwood Mesa and plans for a commercial center on Fairview Avenue near its intersection with Hollister Avenue, which will be among the first items to tackle.

The planning staff is also working on environmental documents for the next phase — about 100 residential units — of the Willow Springs residential project, as well as for a proposed assisted-living facility near Ellwood School. Other properties, including the Shelby Trust land off Cathedral Oaks near Dos Pueblos High School, the Westar property on Hollister across from Camino Real Marketplace, Bishop Ranch and Haskell’s Landing — another 100-unit project — are all in various stages of production as well.

Noozhawk staff 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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