Friday, July 20 , 2018, 2:00 pm | Fair 75º


Local News

Property Owner for Proposed Montecito Fire Station 3 Won’t Extend Purchase Agreement

The station would increase protection on the eastern end of the district, but plans have been progressing slowly

The Montecito Fire Protection District board got news this week that the property owner of the proposed Station 3 site will not extend the five-year-old purchase agreement for the land at 2500 East Valley Road.

Petan Company manager James Jackson sent Fire Chief Chip Hickman and the board a letter explaining that the company would not be extending or renegotiating the purchase agreement past the Dec. 31 expiration date. The agreed-upon cost was about $1.2 million, Hickman said.

Jackson wrote that there have been significant changes since 2008 — to the property’s value and with the creation of a neighborhood organization strongly opposed to the project site — and the owners don’t want to be in limbo for another five years.

There are still concerns about whether the district has the money to operate a station, and there are studies being commissioned to determine if a third station is even needed, Jackson wrote.

Hickman said he was “very disappointed and saddened” that the group didn’t want to extend the agreement.

Station 3 has been proposed to increase fire protection on the eastern end of the district, but plans have been moving forward slowly, particularly since a Superior Court judge invalidated the environmental impact report.

The project was challenged in court by neighboring property owners and the fire district board is having the consultant firm, AMEC Earth and Environmental Inc., fix the documents and get them re-certified for free.

That process is likely to take six months at least, said Mark Manion, counsel for the district from Price, Postel and Parma.

Directors weren’t sure what to make of the letter from Jackson, but asked Hickman to get more clarity on its intent. They plan to discuss buying the property more in-depth at a future closed session meeting.

The board didn’t interpret the letter as an end to the project at this site, and the district might decide to try to negotiate a new purchase agreement. Manion pointed out that the district could also discuss pursuing eminent domain — taking private property for public use — for the land.

Director Abe Powell said he was “surprised and disappointed” that the company would preclude an extension before the agreement even ended. The news appears to be a setback, but the agreement was very restrictive and a new one could provide more flexibility for the district, he said.

The district acted in good faith to do its due diligence, including an EIR, and “it doesn’t feel good to be criticized that it’s taken longer than anybody hoped,” he said.

The letter didn’t close the door on future negotiations, but Jackson wrote: “We felt it would be only fair and considerate that we let you know our position as soon as possible and let you know that if our property continues to be the chosen site, it will have to be acquired in some other way other than under the existing option agreement.”

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli 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.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through Stripe below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Enter your email
Select your membership level

Payment Information

You are purchasing:

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >