New plans for the Ballantyne property on the eastern flank of the Gaviota region once again touched off public controversy this week. In 2008, after county officials approved a 14,000-square-foot home for the ridgetop parcel off Farren Road, public outcry and a lawsuit levied by the Gaviota Coast Conservancy (GCC) put those plans on ice, but now — with the owners hoping to convert their holding into a nursery complete with a large barn and other structures — attorneys for the GCC are once again crying foul.
The matter found itself in front of Santa Barbara County planning commissioners last Wednesday as the GCC was appealing Planning and Development’s recent approval of Lynn Ballantyne’s plans to build a 1,200-square-foot barn on the property, use an existing trailer (previously found to be a zoning violation by the county) as an office, and use two already-built water storage tanks as part of a budding nursery business. GCC lawyer Ana Citron argued against the plans, saying that not only does the potential impact of the barn on the viewshed as enjoyed from Farren Road trigger a certain degree of environmental review but also, since the barn is quite similar to one proposed as part of the infamous 2008 plans, that permitting it would be in potential violation of the Superior Court victory her law firm won when appealing the original project. There was also speculation by Citron and multiple public speakers that the actual legitimacy of the agricultural operations should be further investigated by county staffers.
For her part, Lynn Ballantyne testified before the commissioners that she no longer has any intention of ever building a residence at the property and that her nursery operation, which was born almost accidentally after she sold some trees on Craigslist in the wake of her residential dreams being dashed, is her sole intention. “I have no plans for anything residential,” promised Ballantyne, adding that she felt the GCC’s appeal was a “personal” attack. In the end, the commissioners — after checking with county counsel about the potential legal ramifications of upholding the ministerial permits despite the preexisting court ruling — opted to punt their decision in favor of more legal research. The discussion will continue on June 5.