Planning Commission Grants Time for Housing Developer to Reach Out to Golf Club Owners | Local News
After six hours of discussion and deliberations, the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission voted Thursday to delay action on a proposed housing development along the outer edges and between fairways at a public golf course west of Orcutt.
The Neighborhoods of Willow Creek and Hidden Canyon have been proposed for sites adjacent to the 18-hole Rancho Maria Golf Club, whose owners have fiercely opposed the housing development off Highway 1 between Solomon and Black roads.
After hearing his fellow commissioners leaning toward denial, Fifth District Commissioner Dan Blough suggested a continuance to give the developer and golf course owners more time to come up with an acceptable project.
“I really think there is a way to make this project work and to be a shining star as opposed to something that’s a bad accident,” Blough said.
The longtime developer said he knew the golf course’s previous owners — the fathers of the current owners — and offered to help find a proposal more palatable to both sides, although some commissioners viewed another attempt as hopeless.
Following the talks about denying the project, commissioners unanimously agreed to the applicant’s last-minute request to continue the item to the Feb. 3 meeting so they could try to reach an agreement with the golf course owners.
Thursday’s meeting was the second time that the commissioners took up the issue with the first hearing occurring last month.
Orcutt Rancho LLC has proposed creating 143 single-family homes on large lots for 177 acres in an area known as Key Site 21 in the Orcutt Community Plan.
Specifically, Willow Creek would have 89 single-family residential lots ranging in size from 8,070 square feet to 16,883 square feet.
Hidden Canyon envisions 54 single-family residential lots ranging in size from 10,368 square feet to 49,099 square feet.
But the Rancho Maria owners argued against the development because of a number of concerns that the housing project might negatively impact the golf course operations and called the environmental review inadequate.
Issues raised during the meeting centered on water, endangered species, wetlands, proximity to prime agricultural land and traffic on the two-lane Highway 1.
Before Blough’s suggestion, Third District Commissioner John Parke called the residential development and golf course existence — under separate ownership and created decades apart — “a historical accident.”
He said he didn’t like the proposed configuration, density or proposal to fill a canyon, and he called the development “a perfect example of leap-frogging and sprawl.”
The Neighborhoods of Willow Creek and Hidden Canyon would place homes near Rancho Maria Golf Club fairways. Homes also would be near long-standing farmland. (Contributed map)
“I think there’s an approvable project, (but) it would take substantial redesign and substantial cooperation by the golf course, which they should do,” Parke said.
But Fourth District Commissioner Larry Ferini spoke up for the housing development’s other neighbors — farming operations.
“I respect that the golf course has been there for 55 years, but the farming’s been there for over a hundred (years),” Ferini said, adding that the nearby agricultural land is home to “high-energy farms” with a lot of activity for most of the year.
“What we would be doing is inserting a finger of urban activity into the middle of this farm ground, and I just think it’s a really bad idea,” farmer Ferini said, adding that the development has never been popular in the community.
As they meet to work out differences, the developer and golf course representatives must remember other concerns that have been raised, Parke said.
“It might be sprawl, it might be agricultural compatibility, it might be my concerns about California tiger salamanders and other things,” he said. “You can’t throw those concerns under the bus to reach an agreement. You have to come back with something that is a better plan for both parties but also a better plan for the public.”