Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Supes OK 'monstrous' mansion on coast


After several years of heated debate, the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors approved a 13,333-square-foot, single-family home slated for a hilltop on the Gaviota Coast.
The home, known as the Ballantyne Project, will also include a 1,368-square-foot guest home and a 1,200-square-foot barn, bringing the total square footage of new buildings to nearly 16,000.

The board approved the project with a 3-2 vote. South County Supervisors Salud Carbajal and Janet Wolf dissented.
Carbajal called the approval of the home, which is located at 500 Farren Rd. on the outskirts of Goleta, “Not a good day for protection of the Gaviota Coast.”
“The reality is we have an audacious, monstrous development violating our policies that are put in place to protect the public’s interest and protect environmental resources,” he said. “I think it’s precedent setting. This is the Gaviota Coast we’re talking about. This flies in the face of good land-use planning, especially for the area of the Gaviota Coast.”
The project has a tenuous history with county planners. The Department of Planning and Development denied a land-use permit for the project in 2006, saying it didn’t comply with the county’s visual resources policy.
But on Nov. 8, 2006, the County Planning Commission approved the project with a 3-2 vote. The Gaviota Coast Conservancy appealed this ruling, and it was brought before the Board of Supervisors for the first time on June 19, 2007.
During that hearing, the board, with a 3-2 vote, directed the applicant to undertake environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act. Normally single-family homes are exempt from environmental review, but officials at the Gaviota Coast Conservancy pointed out that once a project is appealed to a political body, it falls under the umbrella of CEQA.
The environmental review was performed by Rincon Consultants Inc., which filed a mitigated negative declaration - essentially stating no significant impacts existed. With board approval, this would allow the project to move forward without a full-blown environmental impact report being conducted.
However, e-mails, which were provided to the Daily Sound by Marc Chytilo, an attorney for the Gaviota Coast Conservancy, indicate county officials directed Rincon Consultants to present its findings in a manner that saved the applicant from conducting the full EIR.
In an e-mail written by Joe Power, of Rincon Consultants, to County Senior Planner Allen Bell, Power recommends the county conduct a complete EIR. But in a response to Power’s e-mail, Dave Ward, deputy director of the county’s development review division, says the county found Power’s recommendation to be “premature,” and asked him to reevaluate the reword it in the final report, which was done.
The significant impact Power cites in the e-mail fell in line with county planner’s initial denial of the project based on the home’s impact on views from Farren Road and Calle Real.
In the e-mail, Power reminds county officials that the mitigated negative declaration concludes the aesthetic impacts would be less than significant and that the project would not violate county visual policies — a statement based on Farren Road not being an important public view location.
But according to an EIR prepared by the county for the Santa Barbara Ranch, also known as Naples, which could result in the construction of 73 luxury homes directly east of the Ballantyne Project, Farren Road is classified as a “key observation point.”
“Given that the county has released a public document suggesting that Farren Road is an important view location, and in light of Mr. Chytilo’s documentation of the ongoing recreational use of Farren Road, we believe that it could reasonably be argued that the EIR commenters have raised a ‘fair argument’ that this is the case,” Power writes in the e-mail.
Power goes on to say the proposed Ballantyne residence would be, “Highly visible from Farren Road and relies heavily on the notion that Farren Road is not an important view corridor to support the conclusion that the visual change from Farren Road is not a significant impact under CEQA and would not violate county visual policies.”
As a result, Power says the Santa Barbara Ranch EIR would “contradict” the findings for the Ballantyne residence.
“Based on the above,” the e-mail states, “our recommendation would be to prepare a focused EIR that, at a minimum, addresses aesthetics and county visual policies. Otherwise, we believe that the county would be vulnerable to legal challenge with respect to the above points.”
In the county’s response, Ward asks Power to make a series of changes to the mitigated negative declaration.
“Your recommendation was based largely on public comments regarding the importance of Farren Road as a public viewing place,” Ward wrote in his response to Power. “We believe your recommendation is premature because you have not provided any further analysis of views of the project as seen from Farren Road… In addition, you have not analyzed whether the key observation points used in the environmental impact report for the Santa Barbara Ranch Project are relevant to the Ballantyne Project.”
Chytilo said the e-mails are clear case of county officials “directing a legal outcome.”
“It’s had some very heavy interference by the administration and political arms in the planning process,” Chytilo said of the environmental report.
Richard Adam, an attorney who addressed the board yesterday and represents the applicants, Lynn Ballantyne and Randy Welty, said the lengthy process needed to end and urged the board to approve the project.
“We’re asking you to put a stop to this now,” Adam said. “It’s been going on for five years now; far too long. Do what’s right and what’s fair.”
Third District Supervisor Brooks Firestone, whose district includes the Ballantyne project, said he believed the applicant had met the county’s requirements and approval was appropriate.
“I believe the applicant has gone through all the hoops that we have suggested,” he said. Some of these hoops include moving the residence 20 feet back from the spot originally envisioned and proposed construction of a 600-foot long, 10-foot high berm that would partially block the home from view along Highway 101.
Even with these concessions, Carbajal said the bottom line is the home doesn’t comply with county visual standards and, furthermore, will likely be precedent setting for other development along the pristine coastline.
Attempts to reach Adam for comment were unsuccessful last night.
Chytilo said the Gaviota Coast Conservancy has 30 days to file a lawsuit — a possibility he said has not yet been thoroughly discussed.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Whether we like it or not, the pressure to develop this beutiful place we have here called Santa Barbara, will forever gradually be changed. In the next 100 years most all of us will no longer be here. And people with more money than the ones that live here now will build, and relandscape all the way out to the islands. Thats my suspicion.