Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Supes delay Naples vote, opposing sides to meet


Eight days stands between what may become development at Naples, the eastern gateway to the Gaviota Coast, or something else.
It could be 72 homes, or 150, or something entirely different.
Whatever the number, Fifth District Supervisor Joe Centeno yesterday implored opponents of the Naples development and the developer, Matt Osgood, to find some middle ground before the board votes on the project at a meeting scheduled for Oct. 21.

“It is a very special place,” Centeno said of the Gaviota Coast, adding that he wanted the opponents to sit down with Osgood. “I would consider that a great favor, to be honest with you. This might be the perfect venue for us to get something done here.”
When the gavel fell and the supervisors’ nine-hour special meeting on the development concluded, Marc Chytilo, legal counsel for the Gaviota Coast Conservancy, hopped out of his seat and approached Osgood. The two men shook hands and set a meeting for today at 10 a.m.
Osgood and Chytilo both said during phone interviews that they hope some agreement can be reached.
“This is a project that cries for a workout,” Chytilo said. “We’ll see if we’re ready. There are significant uncertainties for each side and so the question is whether we can reach a compromise.”
Osgood said he didn’t hear any “stellar” ideas during the marathon meeting, and hopes sitting down with Chytilo and other opponents will yield more results.
“We’ll see if we come up with any good ideas tomorrow,” he said.
The complicated saga that is the Naples development has been traversing the halls of local land-use planning for the past decade.
But the roots of the project date back 121 years, when the Naples area was divided into a grid-like subdivision that consisted of more than 400 lots.
The lots have since been whittled down to roughly 274, of which Osgood says 150 could be built on.
And after 10 years of talking, during which time Osgood said he’s spent millions on planning, architects and attorneys, the developer is set on building his project.
The project he says he’s willing to accept, and has been approved by the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission, has been whittled down to 72 homes, 16 of which would be constructed on the ocean side of Highway 101.
This is the project Osgood said he wants to build. But if forced, the developer said he’s more than prepared to resort to the grid.
In fact, Osgood said if the board does not approve the 72-home project, known as alternative 1B in a memorandum of understanding he has negotiated with the county, he’ll waste little making the 121-year-old project a reality.
“The downside is the grid,” he told the board. “I don’t want that to happen. Please help me.”
On the surface, it would appear those opposed to the project wouldn’t want that either. But Chytilo said he believes Osgood’s “bluff” is “substantially inflated.” He said ending up with the grid might be the best option at this point in the game.
In the event the two parties fail to reach a compromise, and the board votes against the 72-home development, Chytilo said he doubts 150 homes would ever be built.
The alternative, Chytilo assumes, would be for Osgood to begin selling off the lots. If this happened, Chytilo said the lots would likely be split into larger parcels and the end-result would probably not look much different than the 72-home alternative.
“There’s certainly a good argument that that’s comparable to approval,” Chytilo said of the grid development. “In some ways that might be the better configuration.”
Osgood, however, insists the grid option will look far worse than anything anyone wants.
“I think the bottom line is a lot of people don’t understand and don’t believe the downside,” Osgood said. “I hope they don’t make that a reality. It would be a disaster. This is not something to play around with and take lightly because the grid would not be a good thing.”
While much remains to be seen about exactly what, if anything ends up rising from the dirt at Naples, hundreds of people who packed the board hearing room said they want the beachfront bluffs and agriculture lands to remain void of mansions.
Local architect David Henderson told the board to think twice before setting in motion any “irreversible change.”
“I’m an engineer,” he said. “I design things to make the world better. [But] I cannot design more land. I cannot design more nature. You need to protect it for us.”
Fuel was added to the public’s outrage over the project when the board voted 3-2 last Tuesday behind closed doors to amend the memorandum of understanding between Osgood and the county.
The amendment essentially split the Naples project into two pieces, an inland section and coastal section.
One of the results of this action is the exemption of the coastal portion from review by the California Coastal Commission.
Osgood told the Daily Sound last week the original MOU was always meant to read as thought the project was two chunks, but needed to be clearer.
Chytilo and many who addressed the board yesterday accused them of abandoning the public’s interest by deciding the matter behind closed doors.
It was also the MOU amendment that nearly prevented yesterday’s hearing from occurring at all.
Second District Supervisor Janet Wolf opened the meeting with questions about missing signatures on the amended MOU, which she felt should have been signed before the board discuss or vote on a project.
“I just felt it was premature to proceed unless we had that agreement,” she said. “This is a large project and we should make sure we do everything by the book.”
Osgood called Wolf’s proposal to reschedule the meeting, which failed on a 3-2 vote, “political theatrics.”
Wolf said the big hang-ups for her with any of the Naples project currently being discussed are the homes proposed for the oceanfront bluffs and the size of the houses.
Chytilo echoed those concerns, and though he wouldn’t say exactly what conditions would need to be met by Osgood before the Gaviota Coast Conservancy was satisfied, removing the homes from the bluff would change a lot.
“That would certainly change the dynamic quite a bit,” he said.
In the event that doesn’t happen, Chytilo said he’s ready to go to court.
“We’re fine to be on the litigation path, but if you can resolve the thing and come up with a solution that works for everybody, you’ve always got to try,” he said.
The board will resume the discussion next Tuesday at its regularly scheduled meeting.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow what a concept- sitting down and having a conversation about compromise!!! Kudos to all who participated yesterday!