The Gaviota Coast Conservancy has launched a lawsuit against the Goleta Water District for what the environmental group said was the district’s failure to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act before moving to annex 26 parcels of land on the Gaviota coast.

The 131 acres in question are just outside of the western border of Goleta, and part of an undeveloped coastal area that has long been in a tug-of-war between developers and environmentalists.

The litigation came right at the deadline for a CEQA challenge to the water district’s annexation of lands belonging to Orange County-based Makar Properties LLC, owner of two agricultural parcels just west of Bacara Resort & Spa, as well as 25 lots in the area known as Naples.

“Annexation is the first step in the development process, and CEQA requires that environmental review be performed before agencies begin the approval process, including annexation,” Gaviota Coast Conservancy president Mike Lunsford said.

A Noozhawk message left for a Goleta Water District representative has not yet been returned.

The land does have an environmental document, albeit a 15-year-old one meant for Dos Pueblos Golf Links, a golf course planned in 1993. That plan was approved by Santa Barbara County but denied by the state Coastal Commission in 2003.

The Goleta Water District’s plans for the two large agricultural parcels is to provide water hookups for two large residences on that land, as well as other smaller structures allowed by the area’s agricultural zoning.

The landowner paid the district approximately $4 million in 1998, the year the annexation was approved, although the application for annexation lapsed despite two Local Agency Formation Commission extensions. The money, which, was contingent upon the annexation, may have to be returned to the landowners if it does not go through.