Explosive Properties: Westmont expansion appeal appealed.

“There are so many bombs going off in Montecito it’s starting to look like Iraq,” said one observer, and today Montage got wind of two more explosions in the Montecito minefield. Thursday Westmont College neighbors filed an appeal to the Board of Supervisors requesting a reversal the Montecito Planning Commission’s approval of the college’s expansion project. And, within hours, a second appeal was filed by Westmont College accepting the MPC’s approval, but asking that certain conditions imposed by the MPC at the November 20 hearing be reconsidered. “Westmont does not appeal the approval, only certain conditions,” the appeal document says. “The college is particularly concerned about Conditions 7 and 9 concerning parking and traffic caps and restrictions. As revised and adopted by the MPC, Conditions 7 and 9 are in excess of the MPC’s jurisdiction and authority because there is no nexus to any identified impact of the proposed project that is supported by substantial evidence in the record, and therefore such conditions violate constitutional and statutory requirements.”

The residents against the project
view the traffic restrictions as inadequate,
while the College thinks the Planning Commission
has overreached in their new conditions for the project.

The neighbor’s appeal cites Condition 9 specifically. The “Citizens Concerned Over Westmont Expansion” appeal says: “The conditions of approval intended to regulate and control traffic (Condition 9) are inadequate to prevent dramatic increases in traffic that would be incompatible with the Montecito Community Plan. Conversely, Westmont’s concern with Condition 9 states: “The original language of Condition 9 arose as a voluntary offer by the college to cap traffic, with serious consequences for exceeding the cap, even though there was no significant traffic impact identified during the extensive environmental review.” The Westmont appeal document continues: “Westmont’s original voluntary offer to cap traffic at 3,500 ADTs (average daily trips) was criticized based upon the concern that weekend and non-school days have fewer traffic trips occur on weekends and during school breaks, and should not have been included in the average. In response, Westmont proposed a much lower cap of 2,500 ADTs for these non-academic and weekend days. The net result was a voluntary offer to cap Westmont’s annual traffic over the entire year at 2,930 ADTs. This annual average is far below the number of trips that the (environmental impact review) considered to be acceptable. Westmont cannot agree to a lower cap, as the college’s voluntary offer was made in good faith as the lowest number that it could effectively manage. The College also appealed “Condition 7,” as revised and adopted by the MPC. “It a case of a “solution looking for a problem.” the Westmont appeal says. “ There is no evidence of an existing parking problem in the neighborhood, and no reason to fear that a problem will be created in the future. Yet the MPC adopted condition incorporates provisions that are unworkable, impractical and ineffective, and will have adverse unintended consequences for both Westmont and the neighbors in the vicinity of the College. (For example, Condition 7 would allow students to rent parking in the vicinity of campus and requires Westmont to issue “non-parking permit” decals.)” “As revised and adopted by the MPC, Conditions 7 and 9 “go too far” and do not follow the Planning & Development Department’s recommendations for these conditions in the staff report dated October 30, 2006 (such staff recommendations for Conditions 7 and 9 were acceptable to Westmont)” the appeal notes. The neighbors’ appeal, signed by Pamela Lopker on behalf of “Citizens Concerned Over Westmont Expansion,” includes the following arguments for appeal consideration: The grounds for this appeal include, but are not limited to the following:

1) The size, bulk and scale of this approximately 375,000 square foot expansion—more than doubling the physical facilities of the college is incompatible with the Montecito Community Plan, 2) The traffic impact that will result from the project, even as conditioned, are incompatible with the Montecito Community Plan 3) Approval of the project violates applicable law because Westmont is currently in violation of its Conditional Use Permit…currently issue –(ing) substantially more parking decals parking permits allowed by the CUP… 4) The approval of annexation of additional non-taxpaying land t the land currently owned by Westmont is unjustified. 5) The decision of the MPC was improperly influenced by legally incorrect advice to the effect that absent project approval Westmont would be entitled to build approximately 200,000 square feet of additional development without meaningful discretionary regulatory power of the MPC. 6) The decision of the MPC regarding annexation was improperly influenced by legally incorrect advice regarding the MPC discretion to approve annexation. 7) The decision of the Montecito Planning Commission was based on a legally deficient environmental analysis that suffered from fatal legal defects… 8) The decision of the MPC purports to give Westmont a right to build out a new Master Plan over an indefinite period of time, without discretionary review by the County, which “right to build” is contrary to build is contrary to California Law.

The Westmont College project, partially located on an old estate in Montecito, has been in debate for over six years and just recently, on November 20, received a green light from the MPC. Almost immediately the opponents put out word that they would appeal and Westmont responded, saying they had their own concerns about the MPC’s limitations. The Board of Supervisors has not scheduled a hearing, but some participants are hopeful it will reach the appeal docket sometime in January.

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