Just what company may have development rights to the 1,048-acre Naples property will go before the Santa Barbara County Supervisors on Tuesday, who have allotted two hours of their regular meeting to the issue.
The project, known as Santa Barbara Ranch, located both north and south of Highway 101, was approved by the supervisors in 2008.
Two separate development agreements were included in those approvals, one for the inland portion of the project and for the coastal portion, which was rescinded by supervisors in 2009. The inland agreement remains active.
A string of developers have attempted to move the project forward, the most recent being Missouri-based company SBHRC Inc.
However, that company asked county supervisors in June to consent to a transfer agreement to a new company, Spectra America. If all moves forward, Spectra would assume the rights to develop the inland portion of the property.
The county can refuse to give consent if it doesn’t think the transferee can uphold the financial obligation, which is exactly one option staff are putting before supervisors this week.
“Spectra America has not submitted any information to date regarding their reputation and financial resources,” according to the county’s staff report.
The developer is required to pay $100,000 to a nonprofit conservation organization for creek restoration in the area within 60 days of the agreement becoming effective, according to the agreement. It also must pay $300,000 to the nonprofit to implement that creek restoration plan before construction or grading begins, and offer all reasonable assistance to implement the plan within three years.
Both companies submitted paperwork waving the 45-day period for the county to consider the transfer agreement to Aug. 20. Spectra has also confirmed that escrow will not close on the property prior to the conclusion of the board’s hearing on Aug. 20.
Staff is recommending that the board either continue the hearing until Aug. 20, or tell the company it won’t consent to the transfer because the company hasn’t provided evidence of the its reputation or financial resources to perform the obligation in the development agreement.
If Spectra does provide the documentation, however, the county could reconsider.
Attorney Marc Chytilo, who is representing the Naples Coalition, a group dedicated to opposing development in the area, said Monday that he’ll be urging the board to deny the request for the transfer agreement.
If the company does resubmit, it should submit information on its financial condition and reputation at the time of the request, he said.
“Since the county only has 45 days to review the information, it must be made available concurrently with the request so the public and decision makers have time to review it and ask questions,” he said. “The proposal to extend the deadline to the date of the next board hearing paints the county into a corner with no room to themselves ask for more information. The last time this was before the board, the supervisors found they did not have adequate information and the consent was ‘deemed approved’ when the board took no action in 45 days. We don’t want a repeat of that situation.”
Chytilo, along with environmental groups such as the Environmental Defense Center and Surfrider, say that Spectra America has been involved in numerous bankruptcies that had the apparent effect of it avoiding obligations associated with land use development projects and that detailed information about its financial situation is needed.
Tuesday’s meeting is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. in the Board Hearing Room of the County Administration Building, 105 E. Anapamu St. in Santa Barbara.