A majority of the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission last week couldn’t support revised findings — which commissioners previously asked for — to support the denial of a residential development within and around Rancho Maria Golf Club in Orcutt.
After some wrangling over whether to reject the revised findings, modify or delete some of them, as requested by the developer, and then approve them, or approve the original findings, commissioners voted 5-0 on April 28 to continue the matter to the May 12 meeting.
Commissioners chose the continuance to give themselves time to read and compare them all before making a decision.
It appears all the commissioners are prepared to recommend the Board of Supervisors deny the Neighborhoods of Willow Creek and Hidden Canyon; they just can’t agree on all the findings to be made that would support that decision.
Orcutt Rancho LLC has been working for more than five years on a plan to build homes on parcels that lie between and outside the holes at Rancho Maria, with the latest version calling for 129 single-family residences in two separate communities.
The County Planning and Development Department initially prepared findings for recommending supervisors approve the project within the area designated Key Site 21 in the Orcutt Community Plan.
But commissioners rejected approval of the development at a Feb. 10 hearing and asked staff to prepare findings for recommending denial but provided only minimal direction on them.
When they came back at the March 8 meeting, the findings didn’t address all the issues commissioners had discussed at the previous hearing, so staff was asked to include additional reasons using findings suggested by opponents of the project.
When the revised findings were presented on April 28, most of the commissioners didn’t support them again.
“The findings, I think, someone manufactured … ,” said 5th District Commissioner Dan Blough, noting the big problem for him is that the developer and golf course owners couldn’t negotiate a project acceptable to both.
“I couldn’t support the project today because I don’t think the project is appropriate for the site,” Blough said.
Second District Commissioner Laura Bridley said she believes the proposed development is reasonable, complies with the Orcutt Community Plan guidelines and is probably better than what any proposed future project might be.
“The findings staff presented today, I think, I can’t support,” she said.
Third District Commissioner John Parke was ready to approve the revised findings.
“I’m confident that what we have before us is the staff’s best effort and their best effort knowing where we were coming from [at the last meeting],” he said, but he added he couldn’t see the deletions the applicant wanted on his computer screen and wasn’t willing to consider making those changes without fully reading them as well as both the original and revised findings.
On his motion, the commissioners unanimously agreed to delay a decision on the project until the May 12 meeting so they can read and compare all the proposed findings.
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