The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors will now be deciding whether the owner of Lompoc’s La Purisima Golf Course will be able add a hotel and resort to his property, and, more importantly, if the county’s general plan could be amended to properly allow the move. The property is currently zoned for agriculture. This designation would have to be changed to “resort/visitor serving commercial” for the new plans, which have been in the works for three years but have made little progress.
On Wednesday, the Planning Commission - with 1st District Commissioner Michael Cooney sitting out as a result of a potential conflict of interest - determined the supervisors would best be the board to make such a policy decision. “Maybe now is the time for the board to get their arms around : what we are going to do,” said Cecelia Brown, 2nd District Commissioner. “We can take our cues from what they might say.”
In front of the commission Wednesday was the matter of whether it should initiate an amendment to the General Plan in order to accommodate the 60,000-square-foot hotel and resort, which would feature a restaurant, spa, 80 rooms, and 85 casitas that would be both residential units and time shares. The resort would be located on the world-renowned golf course, located off Highway 246 east of Lompoc.
Though zoned for ag, the property currently holds a 100-acre golf course and isn’t farmed. The decision on this project could have a widespread effect on dozens of ag-zoned parcels throughout the county, potentially opening them up to a change to commercial zoning.
Most neighbors, including the nearby City of Lompoc, support the project, but others are afraid of the precedent it might set, especially in the Gaviota Coast. Erik Vasquez, an agent for course owner Ken Hunter, said that precedent in itself isn’t a bad thing. “The decision to consider an application that doesn’t fit the guidelines of an outdated plan, that would be the Lompoc Community Plan, does not guarantee an open door to unbridled development,” Vasquez said.
The Agricultural Advisory Committee (AAC) voted 7-1 in favor of recommending not to initiate the project in particular or any other rezone from ag to resort serving commercial until the county reviews the issue more intensely. New 3rd District Commissioner Marell Brooks attended the AAC meeting, and she indicated her feelings were drawn largely from watching that meeting.
The commission decided to punt the project to the Board of Supervisors along with notes that Brooks and Brown were against initiating the amendment, while 4th District Commissioner Dan Blough and 5th District Commissioner Joe Valencia were in favor. “This is a way to bring money into our area,” Valencia said, touching on the oft-talked about topic of revenue possibilities in a gloomy fiscal time for the county.