Despite hopes that something might be decided by the end of an all-day hearing on Tuesday, the future Santa Barbara Botanic Garden remains in bureaucratic limbo, as the county supervisors decided to continue the remaining public comments and deliberations on the controversial “Vital Mission Plan” until May 18. That leaves both the garden’s administration as well as leading critics waiting anxiously yet again for a final decision to be made, as the plan’s been making rounds before various county agencies for nearly five years now.
The decision came after five straight hours of testimony from staff, from the three parties appealing the County Planning Commission’s approval of the project, from the Botanic Garden’s representatives, and from more than two dozen members of the public, who were about evenly split on whether to approve or deny the project. The major concern echoed by both the appellants and the opposed citizens was fire safety and emergency evacuation, and the individual supervisors seemed to recognize those issues as the critical considerations. Other than that, however, the supervisors gave no inkling of whether they were supportive of the project or not, and it remains anyone’s guess as to how they will vote on May 18.
Now scheduled for that date are the remaining 75 or so public commenters who turned in request to speak, the Botanic Garden’s rebuttal, the staff’s input, and then the supervisors’ deliberations. On top of that, the May 18 meeting will also include an additional appeal hearing, that of the Botanic Garden’s request for the supervisors to deny the Historic Landmarks Advisory Committee’s denial of their changes to the historic meadow. If all of that proves too daunting for May 18 alone, then the supervisors have also penciled in June 1 as a final decision date.