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City of Santa Barbara to Take Control of Controversial Veronica Meadows Land

The national Trust for Public Land is acquiring the 14.7-acre property next to Arroyo Burro Creek after the luxury-home project fell apart

Santa Barbara voters overwhelmingly turned down Measure Y, which would have allowed the Veronica Meadows housing project to move forward. The 14.7-acre property has been sold by the developer to the Trust for Public Land and will eventually be taken over by the city.
Santa Barbara voters overwhelmingly turned down Measure Y, which would have allowed the Veronica Meadows housing project to move forward. The 14.7-acre property has been sold by the developer to the Trust for Public Land and will eventually be taken over by the city. (Giana Magnoli / Noozhawk file photo)

The land that once was the site of a controversial creekside luxury homes project known as Veronica Meadows may soon be controlled by the City of Santa Barbara.

The national Trust for Public Land is working to acquire the 14.7 acres of open space next to Arroyo Burro Creek in the Las Positas Valley.

The property had been owned by developer Mark Lee, who spent more than a decade trying to build luxury, multimillion-dollar homes at the site. 

Alex Size, project manager for the Trust, said his group  is working on a deal to purchase the property, which has a $4 million appraised market value.

The Trust expects to have about $1.3 million in funding from state and county grants, and will look to raise the raise the rest from public and private sources. 

"This isn't some takeover," Mayor Helene Schneider said Tuesday. "This was in conjunction with them."

The Trust is now in negotiations with the city to turn the land over for restoration and preservation. 

Lee had once envisioned building two-story homes on the site, which is undeveloped open space. The homes were proposed to be between 2,500 and 3,800 square feet on 5,000- to 9,600-square-foot parcels.

Lee owned the land, but it sat snug next to Arroyo Burro Creek, a hillside and a neighborhood.

The only way residents could have accessed the property would have been through Alan Road, a residential street.

However, the neighbors several years ago protested the use of the public street to access the private development, forcing Lee to get creative to make his project work.

He proposed to build a bridge over Arroyo Burro Creek, from Las Positas Road, to allow his future residents to access the property.

But environmentalists came out of the woodwork to complain that building a bridge over the creek would irreparably harm the land, block fish passage in the creek and weaken the creek's hillside.

Lee promised to pay millions of dollars out of his own pocket to restore native habitat and build walkable pedestrian pathways and trails, a financial investment that the city could not afford to make. 

The City Council eventually approved the project, but it fell apart again after a lawsuit and a court order that the public needed to vote on the project because it involved building a bridge over public park land — the creek.

Nearly 70 percent of voters rejected the proposal, toppling the project once and for all.

Longtime Alan Road resident Daniel McCarter spoke at Tuesday's council meeting in support of the land acquisition. 

"The community is ready to rehabilitate this area so that the lungs of SB can breathe a sigh of relief," McCarter said. 

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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