Gaviota Cluster Buster?

Planning Committee Votes to Redo Little-Known Land Use Policy

In a potentially development-deterring turn, the Gaviota Coast Planning Advisory Committee (GavPAC) voted last week to redo a little-known county land-use policy with major implications for Cojo-Jalama Ranch and any potential future build-out of the property. At a Wednesday meeting, committee members, who are currently slow-cooking their way toward an eventual proposal for a Gaviota-specific general plan, voted 5-3 to recommend to county supervisors that the current Agricultural Residential Clustering (ARC) ordinance be abolished and that county staff work on drafting a new one. Cautioning that the move is only a suggestion at this point, Gaviota Coast Conservancy head Mike Lunsford applauded the decision. “It is certainly going in the right direction,” he said, “and sends a message that the type of large-scale development and density that the ARC could allow at Cojo-Jalama isn’t acceptable.”

Created in the early 1980s as preservation play, the county’s ARC is a voluntary element of the current Coastal Plan that allows for agricultural properties over 10,000 acres in the Gaviota and North Coast regions to develop residential units at a density level far greater than they are currently zoned for in exchange for assurances of compatibility between said ag operations and the proposed developments. In the case of Cojo-Jalama, the 24,000-acre holding popularly known as Bixby Ranch and the only actual property in the county that the current ARC ordinance is realistically applicable to, the existing overlay has the potential to pave the way toward anywhere from 250 to 500 homes on the historic property ​— ​while preserving, by way of the clustering, some 97 percent of the ranch’s ag land ​— ​as opposed to the estimated 50 to 70 homes the land is currently zoned for. “It would be like plunking suburbia right down in the middle of Gaviota,” observed GavPAC chair Kim Kimball about the potential impacts of the current ARC, “and I don’t think there is any sympathy for something like that.”

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