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Tuesday, December 18 , 2018, 10:11 am | Fair 56º


Supervisors Delay Action on Appeal of Zipline Proposed for Santa Ynez Valley

Another last-minute email, this time from Caltrans regarding a traffic issue, prompts the board to further postpone the topic until July 19

Stuart Gildred, left, who is proposing to build a zipline and ropes course near Buellton, and engineer Mark Lloyd speak to the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday about the project. On the screen is Second District Supervisor Janet Wolf.
Stuart Gildred, left, who is proposing to build a zipline and ropes course near Buellton, and engineer Mark Lloyd speak to the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday about the project. On the screen is Second District Supervisor Janet Wolf. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

An 11th-hour traffic issue led the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday to delay action on an appeal of a zipline and ropes course proposed for the Santa Ynez Valley.

The topic will return to the board during a July 19 meeting in Santa Barbara, supervisors said after staff sought more time to assess a Caltrans email sent to a project opponent regarding proposed improvements for the driveway at Highway 246. 

Stuart Gildred seeks to build and operate the Sierra Grande Rural Recreational Project, which would have a zipline and ropes course facility on 40 acres of three contiguous ranch parcels adding up to 1,186 acres. The facility would operate seven days a week during daylight hours. At its peak in the summer, the facility would host up to 80 visitors per day.

As he left the hearing Tuesday, Gildred muttered “unbelievable” at the newest delay he blamed on disgruntled neighbors with traffic concerns.

He said he plans to rally the community to fill the audience for the July 19 meeting.

“Show up and support youth recreation for our kids because it’s a good project that shouldn’t be thrown out or not approved because the process is flawed,” Gildred said. “So please, please come support us. It’s very frustrating.”

Neighbor Rick Oas, who appealed the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission's approval of a conditional use permit for the project, said he favors looking at all the aspects of the project to make the most educated decision.

A shared driveway extending south from Highway 246 less than a mile to the project site is the focus of many aspects cited in the appeal filed by Oas, of Pollyrich Farms. The appeal contends access is inappropriate and would turn the private driveway into a public thoroughfare.  

The roadway would require traveling across the Santa Ynez River bed via an “Arizona crossing.”

The appellant also contends noise and biological resources are issues plus seeks a full-blown environmental impact report on the project.

County staff included a requirement that the zipline line developer must add a flare to the driveway to help drivers entering the site to safely slow down to turn off Highway 246.

But the newest email from Melissa Streder of Caltrans to Oas supporter and traffic engineer Larry Hail contends the project must include a lane for arriving vehicles to slow down and a lane for departing vehicles to accelerate. 

County staff had obtained an opinion — requiring only the deceleration lane — from a different Caltrans employee who has since left the agency.

Attempts to clarify the newest opinion could not be resolved during the lunch break Tuesday, prompting staff to recommend that the board continue the hearing. 

This is the only the latest delay for the project in the works since 2012. 

“It’s so unfair,” Gildred said, claiming the project has broad support from the community yet has been stalled by a small number of opponents.

“I’m so blown away it happened again,” he said, adding that an earlier delay was blamed on a last-minute issue raised by the California Department of Fish & Wildlife.

As the board prepared to continue the item, Third District Supervisor Doreen Farr said she knew it was disappointing.

“But certainly Caltrans is too important to ignore,” Farr said. “It’s very important that we get this right and staff have the time to work with them and make sure our paperwork is all in order before we come back.”

Fifth District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino also noted that this is the second delay due to a last-minute email.

“It would be really nice to be able to either give a thumbs-up or thumbs-down next time,” Lavagnino added. 

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully 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.

A map shows the layout of the zipline and ropes course facility proposed near Buellton. Click to view larger
A map shows the layout of the zipline and ropes course facility proposed near Buellton. (Contributed photo)

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