An appeal of the division of one lot between public and private roads into four lots in Los Alamos, based on access to the property from a narrow, privately maintained roadway, was unanimously denied on Dec. 1 by the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission.

In rejecting the appeal filed on behalf of the Shaw Street Maintenance Association by its president, Seth Steiner, some commissioners said the lot split would result in improvements to the dangerous conditions Steiner cited in his appeal arguments.

County Planning and Development Department and County Counsel’s Office staff also disagreed with Steiner’s opinion that applicant Stephan Ruffino was not granted an access easement when the county abandoned maintenance of the road some 20 years ago.

“The order to vacate did not grant [Ruffino] the right to use the entire section of Shaw Street to access the property,” Steiner said, adding Ruffino had not provided any evidence he was granted an access easement.

“The county did not have the legal right to grant an easement and did not grant [an easement] with the vacate order,” he said.

Commissioners also didn’t appear to give much weight to a petition objecting to the lot split that Steiner said was signed by more than 200 Los Alamos residents, although he admitted some additional signers were Buellton residents.

“There is widespread discontent in town about the way this has been handled,” Steiner said.

Steiner also said splitting the 1.53-acre property at 775 Main St. into four lots would result in as many as 12 residences, only half of which would have garages, which would increase traffic congestion on the substandard-width private street and lead to illegal parking in the fire lane.

But Frances Romero of TW Land Planning and Development, agent for the lot split, pointed out no plans have been submitted for any development on the property.

“The project before you today is a lot split,” Romero told commissioners. “We are moving lines on paper to create three additional parcels that are consistent with existing zoning on the site and are actually larger than the minimum required 10,000 square feet.”

Richard Kline, who said he is a 33-year resident of Los Alamos and owns property at the west end of Shaw Street, described it as a “private driveway” that is 17.5 feet at its widest and 14 to 15 feet along most of it.

“Shaw Street is the epitome of small-town living,” Kline said, echoing Steiner’s comments about pedestrians and bicyclists, many from other areas of town, who use the street as a pathway.

Third District Commissioner John Parke said he wished the Los Alamos Planning and Advisory Committee had reviewed and weighed in on the project and wanted to delay a decision so it could do that.

“This is the first significant Los Alamos project that hasn’t had LAPAC’s review,” said 1st District Commissioner Michael Cooney, who supported Parke’s suggestion to have the committee review the lot split.

However, staff said LAPAC didn’t have review authority over lot splits with less than five parcels, and such advisory committees are appointed to help prepare a community plan and disbanded after a plan is adopted.

Fifth District Commissioner Dan Blough said he wasn’t concerned about people parking illegally in the fire lane, and Chairman and 4th District Commissioner Larry Ferini said the requirement to widen Shaw along the property frontage would improve safety.

Although Cooney was concerned about approving the lot split over the opposition of a significant number of residents, Ferini said it doesn’t have a big impact when “we don’t have a lot of people in here saying how this will affect them.”

Ferini said the lot splits would help the county meet its housing goals, but he also said he expects the commission’s decision to be appealed to the Board of Supervisors.

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