The Goleta City Council is putting the brakes on a plan to give up easements along Los Carneros Road to a private developer.
The Towbes Group, which owns the property involved with the easements, has asked that they be re-conveyed back to the company.
They include a 50-foot landscaping easement adjacent to Los Carneros Road and a roadway right-of-way for “old” Los Carneros Road.
Prior to Goleta’s incorporation in 2002, the county of Santa Barbara and the Towbes Group agreed to exchange portions of land for a Los Carneros Road re-alignment.
The agreement provided for the county to hold hearings to abandon or vacate the easement after the construction of the “new” Los Carneros Road segment had been completed. However, the county never held hearings to vacate the subject easement.
Now the Goleta City Council, at its most recent meeting, says it is under no obligation to finish what the county started.
Goleta also has three capital improvement projects that involve widening planned for the area, including for a possible class I bike path.
Councilman Kyle Richards said he is reluctant to do anything now because the city might need that property.
“Clearly we have a need for more bicycle-pedestrian infrastructure,” Richards said. “The need is only growing, especially with a planned development of more residents in that immediate vicinity.
“To me, I think we should do whatever we can to preserve the integrity of our bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. We should make sure we don’t do anything now that would make us lose that potential opportunity.”
Councilman James Kyriaco also said the city should hold on to the land.
“Where is this presumption coming from that we should be bound by actions that were not taken by prior councils,” Kyriaco asked. “I don’t get that line of thinking.”
He said the Los Carneros area is probably the most developed part of Goleta that he will see in his lifetime
“We need housing and that’s great, but for me that housing creates impacts, and it creates expectations, and it creates an opportunity to create more desirable outcomes for those residents,” Kyriaco said. “I don’t want to tie my hands and rule out the possibility of making it safer to bike, or making it safer to walk.”
Peter Brown represents Heritage Ridge, which owns the nearby property where the easements sit, said county was supposed to hold a hearing to abandon the easement. One of the easements on old Los Carneros Road has been effectively abandoned for 30 years.
Heritage Ridge is a proposed senior and workforce rental housing development just north of the completed Willow Springs apartments, east of Los Carneros Road between Hollister Avenue and Highway 101.
The project has been in the pipeline for seven years, and Brown wants to move ahead with the relinquishments.
“For the last year, we have been stalled about what will the rights of way be, what will be the effect on the bike path, what will be the effect on capital improvements,” Brown said. “The project is long overdue to begin processing again, and we very strongly want that to happen.”
The relinquishment issue must now go before the Goleta Planning Commission.