It appears Old Orcutt will have a new community center at a gateway site below Clark Avenue just west of Foxenwood Lane after the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors gave the project unanimous approval.
Supervisors on Tuesday agreed the benefits provided by the proposed OASIS Community Center will outweigh the unavoidable significant environmental impacts and justify the necessary amendment to the Orcutt Community Plan and changes to the open space, bikeways, and parks, recreation and open space maps to allow the project to proceed.
The project was primarily opposed by members the homeowners association of Southpoint Estates, located on the north side above the site, who said allowing the project without compensation would represent “a taking” of the development rights they claimed to retain.
It was also opposed by a group calling itself Friends of Key Site 18, as the property is identified in the Orcutt Community Plan, who said the project will result in the loss of open space and potential passive recreation the riverbottom property offers.
The Orcutt Community Plan designated the 35-acre site as open space, with 8.5 acres of that set aside for a public park.
“The problem with this project is you need the written consent of all the Southpoint Estates owners to alter their rights created under the existing recorded subdivision map,” said John Dorwin, representing two of the property owners.
“You are taking property rights without due process and without just compensation,” he said. “This is a property rights issue.”
Supporters, most of whom wore green in support of the new center, ranged from individuals who teach classes at the existing center to those who take the classes as well as neighbors, who cited the services the organization provides to residents of all ages.
“It is obvious OASIS is an important venue for learning, fellowship, good health and vitality in our community,” said Joe Dana, who works for Orcutt Union School District and has an office just steps away from the existing center. “You can’t help but be impressed.”
Others cited the condition and size of the existing center.
“Despite the quality maintenance, that building is sad,” said Irene Reynolds. “Frankly, we deserve better.”
Supervisors all said they fully support the new center, and Chairman and 4th District Supervisor Bob Nelson, who is an Orcutt resident, worked to acquire the easement necessary for the Orcutt Creek Trail to continue on beyond the OASIS project.
“What OASIS does is very important to my community,” Nelson said. “I think OASIS is very much the heart of Orcutt.”
Fifth District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino said he was surprised opponents were pushing the board to direct the OASIS project to property owned by the city of Santa Maria on Foster Road where the California tiger salamander poses a development problem.
He noted sports fields, an aquatic center or a hog farm would be worse uses for the property than the OASIS Community Center.
“I don’t disagree with the neighbors there will be impacts,” Lavagnino said. “It actually is a great project and it is the right spot.”
Referring to two OASIS Center activities, Lavagnino joked, “I hope we get a new place before I start playing mahjong and learning the ukulele.”
Third District Supervisor Joan Hartmann said she believes the project will provide significant benefits.
“It’s a community center, not just a senior center. It really is for all ages,” she said. “I think this is going to make Orcutt an even finer place to be.”
OASIS, actually an acronym for Orcutt Area Seniors In Service, plans to construct a 14,000-square-foot main building with a meeting hall, kitchen, library, conference rooms and offices, plus a 1,600-square-foot storage building on a portion of the property.
The development will include an access road, a retention basin, a segment of the Orcutt Creek Trail and Bikeway, a monument sign near Clark and Foxenwood and 143 parking spaces, a modification of the 229 required by the Land Use Development Code.
Hikers and cyclists using the trails also will be able to use the center’s restrooms, which supervisors noted will save the county money because it won’t have to build those facilities, according to a staff report.
Twenty special events will be allowed at the center each year, with seven of those fundraisers by non-OASIS groups, each limited to 200 people, including staff.