Whither Santa Ynez?

by Martha Sadler

The draft Santa Ynez community plan was unveiled to decidedly mixed reviews at Tuesday’s county Board of Supervisors meeting, with Supervisor Brooks Firestone being the plan’s biggest booster. Seventy-two square miles of his 3rd District are covered by the plan, including the three unincorporated towns of Santa Ynez, Ballard, and Los Olivos. Not everyone shared Firestone’s enthusiasm about the work of the Valley Planning Advisory Committee. Several valley residents — from ranchers to homeowners to a spokesperson for the Alisal Guest Ranch — expressed outrage at a map marking potential public access through their properties to rivers or mountains. Others objected to 60 units of high-density housing for very low-income workers proposed along Highway 246. Most of the projected need for additional housing was accounted for in the form of worker housing on ranches, mixed commercial-and-residential properties in town, and second units.

Andy Caldwell — spokesman for the Coalition of Labor, Agriculture, and Business — said that development rights for state-mandated affordable housing should be transferred to Buellton, Solvang, or the Santa Ynez Chumash Indian Reservation. Planners responded that the county does not have authority to transfer its housing requirements to those jurisdictions. Nancy Emerson from the Save Our Stars committee strongly urged the county to follow Solvang’s lead in adopting outdoor lighting controls to protect views of the night sky. And Naomi Kovaks of the Citizens Planning Association was among those calling for down-zoning to protect agricultural land, rather than the plan’s proposal for a Historical Overlay District, which would forbid or permit development on a parcel-by-parcel basis. This policy, Kovaks warned, leaves the door wide open to subdividing into five-acre “ranchettes.” Former supervisor Gail Marshall concurred, calling the Historical Overlay a “sham” that sought to avoid difficult decisions. The board did not discuss or take action on the plan, and will continue to hear comments next week.

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