The rumors, it would seem, are true. A group of hopeful purchasers are indeed in escrow to buy Naples. And, as of late last week, the official request was made to the County of Santa Barbara to have the development rights associated with the beloved Gaviota Coast property transferred from its current owners, the St. Louis–based First Bank, to the property’s potential new owners, a development investment team that includes Los Angeles’ Phil Ram and East Coast hedge fund Cerberus Capital Management. “Yes, we received the request for consent to transfer from the bank on June 6,” confirmed Santa Barbara County’s head of Planning and Development Glenn Russell on Tuesday afternoon.
According to Russell, the request officially starts the clock on a 45-day period in which the county must decide whether or not to approve the transfer, a decision that is traditionally left up to the Planning and Development director but in this case will be decided by the Board of Supervisors. As per county policy, the transfer can only be denied if certain elements of the new ownership groups’ “reputation and financial resources” indicate that they will have difficulty delivering the various conditions of approval associated with the project as were agreed upon by a different incarnation of the board back in the fall of 2008.
However, with the supervisors slated to go on their annual summer break in early July, scheduling the hearing is proving to be a bit of a trick, said Russell, especially since not voting on the issue during the 45-day period works as a de facto approval of the transfer. Not only must the supes find a date that works in their already jam-packed schedule, but they also must receive the proper documents from Ram and company that elaborate on their financial standing. Currently, the hearing is tentatively slated for July 2, but if an extension of the review period can be negotiated between the bank and the county, then it will happen shortly after the summer break concludes on August 20.