Wednesday, April 25 , 2018, 7:21 am | Overcast 52º

 
 
 
 

Local News

In Wake of Goleta City Council Snub, Developer to Pull Public Safety Donations for City

Camino Real Marketplace owner says $125,000 in annual contributions will be rerouted directly to Sheriff’s Department, other first-responder agencies

Wynmark Corp., developer and owner of Camino Real Marketplace in Goleta, would like to build a gas station and car wash on the 4.3-acre vacant lot it owns at the corner of Storke Road and Santa Felicia Drive, next to the Ice in Paradise skating rink in the background. The City Council rejected a request to consider amending the city’s General Plan to allow a zoning redesignation for the site. Click to view larger
Wynmark Corp., developer and owner of Camino Real Marketplace in Goleta, would like to build a gas station and car wash on the 4.3-acre vacant lot it owns at the corner of Storke Road and Santa Felicia Drive, next to the Ice in Paradise skating rink in the background. The City Council rejected a request to consider amending the city’s General Plan to allow a zoning redesignation for the site. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

One of the region’s most prominent and philanthropic business and civic leaders will be redirecting tens of thousands of dollars of annual donations his company makes to the City of Goleta. The announcement came just days after the City Council’s snub of a General Plan amendment he had proposed.

“We have decided to stop our voluntary funding to the City of Goleta of $125,000 per year ($1.1 million over the last nine years) to assist the city in its public safety efforts,” Mark Linehan, president of Wynmark Co. and developer of Camino Real Marketplace and Girsh Park, told Noozhawk.

“After some careful thought, we feel that we can assist the Sheriff’s Department and other first responders directly, without having the City Council decide how to spend our money.”​

Linehan would like to submit an application to build a gas station and car wash on property Wynmark owns at the corner of Storke Road and Santa Felicia Drive, next to the Ice in Paradise skating rink.

On July 18, he went before the council seeking a General Plan modification to change the site’s designation to general commercial from community commercial. Under the General Plan, the 4.3-acre parcel at 6975 Santa Felicia Drive currently is zoned for commercial recreation and transit facility uses.

The City Council voted 3-2 to deny the modification request. Mayor Paula Perotte and Councilmen Stuart Kasdin and Kyle Richards voted for the denial, with Councilmen Roger Aceves and Michael Bennett dissenting.

The modification would have only allowed Linehan to submit an application; it would not have granted approval of a project.

Linehan said he believes he deserves more respect from the council, considering his myriad community donations.

Among his contributions to Goleta:

» Provides a free sheriff’s substation in the heart of Camino Real Marketplace, 7004 Market Place Drive.

» Gives the City of Goleta $125,000 per year for public safety.

» Purchased defibrillators for every fire captain’s vehicle serving Goleta.

» Donated the land for Girsh Park, adjacent to Camino Real Marketplace at 7050 Phelps Road.

» Donated the land for Ice in Paradise, at 6985 Santa Felicia Drive.

Perotte said the denial was nothing personal.

“The City of Goleta is aware of and grateful for all of Mr. Linehan’s contributions to our community,” she told Noozhawk. “At the same time, we are resolute that any consideration of changes to Goleta’s General Plan, or any matters that come before us, must be unbiased and based solely on the merits of each case, without consideration of applicant’s history.

“We look forward to working with Mr. Linehan whenever he brings forward this or any other matter.”

Linehan told Noozhawk that the city made the wrong decision.

“I agree with the City Council that they must weigh every project individually and on its merits, not their ‘feelings’ about the applicant,” he said.

“However, it needs to be very clear that we did not present a project to the City Council, so there were no merits or impacts to be discussed.”

Linehan’s said the city’s “unusual process” for General Plan modifications requires the initiation of an amendment before a property owner can even submit an application.

The result of the City Council’s action “to say no to our request for initiation is to deny us access to the city’s planning process,” he said.

“We cannot even submit an application for a proposed project,” he added. “It is unfortunate that some members of our City Council could not understand this.”

Initially, Linehan informed the city in an email that he planned to discontinued funding for other community services, such as the Camino Real Marketplace Farmers Market and Art Show. He has since backed off that position.

“At the current time, we have made no decision to terminate these services,” he said.

Kasdin said he believes Linehan is “invariably motivated to support the best interests of the city and the people of Goleta,” but that didn’t factor into his decision.

“When it comes to land-use planning, I feel that we’re legally obligated to be fair and impartial, to focus on the merits of the decision before us, and not take into consideration whether the applicant is a good guy,” he said.

Kasdin said the decision for a General Plan amendment revolved around whether all of the uses encompassed within the proposed rezoned land-use designation are appropriate for the site or compatible with the surrounding neighborhood.

The site in question is a vacant lot between the parking lot behind The Home Depot and Santa Barbara County Fire Station 11 at 6901 Frey Way, and across Storke Road from the commercial development that is fronted by Zizzo’s Coffee near the sprawling U.S. Postal Service sorting facility.

Richards said Linehan’s decision to eliminate his public safety contributions is “very unfortunate.”

“Mr. Linehan was afforded due process, which included a public hearing,” he told Noozhawk. “His generosity does not allow him any special treatment that wouldn’t be given to any other applicant. I voted against initiating a General Plan amendment because I didn’t believe it would be in the best interest of the city.

“I refuse to be swayed by an individual’s promise of funds or the threat of their loss at the expense of our community. Doing so is not the appropriate basis for setting public policy.”

Richards said changing the land-use designation for the parcel would mean eliminating the potential for certain desirable uses, including recreational, residential and mixed-use retail.

Changing the zoning, he said, would have “allowed unwanted industrial uses such as a gas station, but also automotive repair, storage facilities and even a junkyard.”

Richards said amending the General Plan should not be done lightly, citing the city’s 2011 refusal to approve an amendment for a housing proposal on 240-acre Bishop Ranch, off Glen Annie Road north of Highway 101.

“I did not find a convincing argument to persuade me that this is something the community wanted or would benefit from,” Richards said of Linehan’s proposal.

Aceves said he appreciated Linehan’s contributions to the city and its residents.

“I hope this situation finds a quick resolution,” he said. “His generosity is quite extensive.”

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina 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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