After reviewing a revised plan on Wednesday, the Montecito Planning Commission (MPC) reversed an earlier conceptual opinion and voted 4-1 to approve Robert Largura’s plans for his hillside home a top Romero Canyon Road in Montecito. Last month, the MPC gave conceptual support to an appeal, filed by nearby neighbors Kay and Dave Peterson, to block the project. The commission postponed taking final action at that meeting to allow Planning and Development staff with time to draft appropriate motion language.
Staff returned on Wednesday’s hearing with the suitable motions to support the appeal, but, prior to the MPC final vote, Largura’s team stepped forward to propose a modest redesign. Architect Bob Easton said the owner was willing to lower the height of an infinity pool, replace a permanent wall structure with a pergola, and break up a long linear retaining wall with boulder formations and landscaping.
Encouraged by the changes, Commissioner Claire Gottsdanker offered a new motion to deny the appeal, setting aside December’s conceptual motion to support the Peterson appeal. The majority of the MPC concurred with the new motion, and voted 4-1 to deny the appeal. Only MPC Commission Michael Phillips held firm with his original position to support the Peterson appeal. Commissioner Jack Overall’s vote in favor of the project came only after the motion was amended to included several protective conditions he submitted, including one that will require a bond to insure a proposed $400,000 screening landscape plan becomes reality.
The Largura project has been the brunt of community controversy since it started through the permit process in early 2006. The project is located in the hillsides above Montecito within the community’s Resources Management Zone. In that area, zoning protections exist that are intended to shield the sensitive environmental resources from over development. The Petersons argued Largura’s proposed 4,000-plus square foot house, guesthouse and infinity pool did not fit within limited residential development intended for the area, but on Wednesday the Largura team convinced the MPC otherwise.