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Wednesday, January 16 , 2019, 9:50 pm | Overcast 60º

 
 
 
 

Several Years and Scores of Meetings Later, Supervisors Approve Gaviota Coast Plan

Blueprint lays out planning goals, policies and development standards for future land use in scenic, 158-square-mile area

Among the land-use elements covered by the newly approved Gaviota Coast Plan are biological and environmental protections, coastal access, agriculture, “visual resources,” recreational amenities and new development. Click to view larger
Among the land-use elements covered by the newly approved Gaviota Coast Plan are biological and environmental protections, coastal access, agriculture, “visual resources,” recreational amenities and new development. (Sam Goldman / Noozhawk file photo)

After years of work, the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors approved the Gaviota Coast Plan last week on a 3-2 vote.

The document lays out the planning goals, policies and development standards for future land use in the scenic, 158-square-mile area.

The plan, which seeks to “preserve the rural character of Gaviota,” addresses a wide range of land-use considerations, including biological and environmental protections, coastal access, agriculture, “visual resources,” recreational amenities and new development.

Supervisors Salud Carbajal, Doreen Farr and Janet Wolf voted for the plan, with Supervisors Peter Adam and Steve Lavagnino dissenting.

The process formally kicked off seven years ago and has drawn plenty of public participation along the way.

Tuesday’s final decision was no different, as 47 people signed speaker slips to share their thoughts with the board.

Most argued for various changes to the plan or expressed their dissatisfaction with the process that created it.

The unhappiness evident throughout public comment, Carbajal said, reflects how much of a compromise the “reasonably decent” plan was.

“Certainly it can be enhanced, certainly it’s not perfect,” he said.

Many speakers argued that the plan does not adequately protect environmental and biological resources, and others contended it would stifle agriculture.

Encouraging too much recreation, such as with more trails, could bring in too many visitors and disturb the environment, some said.

The plan was originally developed by the Gaviota Planning Advisory Committee, or Gav PAC, which was created by the board and conducted dozens of meetings and collected considerable public input.

The document went on to the Planning Commission, which examined it over its own slew of meetings before forwarding its final recommendations to the Board of Supervisors two months ago.

Gav PAC chairman Kim Kimball said the commission and county staff had overstepped their bounds in the number of modifications they made to the plan after it left the committee’s hands.

“This was a collaborative process with both the Gav PAC and the public working together to ensure a reasonable outcome,” Paul Van Leer, a Gav PAC member speaking on his own behalf, told the board.

“After many compromises, a well-balanced plan was agreed upon” prior to the Planning Commission’s review, he said.

Farr, who initiated the process and in whose district the area lies, called the end result “a fair and balanced plan.”

The role of planning advisory committees, she said, is to “provide a set of goals.”

“It starts with a PAC, goes to (county) staff, goes to the Planning Commission, comes to the board,” Farr said. “And it is a constant process of refinement. This process has been no different from any other community-plan process, certainly that I’ve been involved with.”

One of the primary goals of the plan — balancing environmental preservation and maintaining agricultural vitality — is already happening on its own due to the stewardship of Gaviota coast residents, Lavagnino said.

Adam added that a community plan was not appropriate for a rural agricultural area in the first place.

Noozhawk staff writer Sam Goldman 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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