In a closed session on Thursday, August 7, the Santa Barbara County Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) decided unanimously to annex the Makar Property – located adjacent to the ever-contentious Santa Barbara Ranch – into the Goleta Water District. The annexation was approved by LAFCO in 1998 in conjunction with a golf course approved by the County, but the California Coastal Commission rejected the project when an endangered California Red-legged Frog was found on the property. Environmental groups objected to last week’s annexation, which is slated for use for two large homes proposed to be built there by Makar Properties, LLC. “This is a real blow to Gaviota Coast protections,” said Marc Chytilo, an attorney representing the Gaviota Coast Conservancy (GCC). “The Water District and Makar are paving the way for development on the Gaviota Coast. LAFCO is supposed to prevent urban sprawl and protect agriculture, but in this case they have done the opposite.”
Currently, Makar has plans in the works to build two large homes on the property, which, once accessory out buildings are added into the mix, average 10,000 square feet each. One of the homes is to be built on a 65 acre parcel, and the other on a 78 acre parcel. The current zoning for the property is AG-100. Howard Zaleskey, the company’s vice president, said there has been no discussion about potential development on the remainder of the property’s 200 acres, which includes 26 antiquated Naples lots. For their part, Makar said the annexation will supply sufficient water for the two houses, despite the fact that the original annexation was for a golf course and is comprised of a large percentage of reclaimed water. “The allocation far exceeds our requirements,” said Zaleskey.
Third District Supervisor Brooks Firestone, who sits on LAFCO, didn’t think that the Commission’s decision marks the end of the dispute. “From all indications of the various parties involved, you’ll probably be following this one in the courts,” he said, adding that LAFCO was faced with a choice of litigation from either GCC or Makar. “My understanding is that is [the 1998 annexation] was recorded, the [Gaviota] Coast Conservancy would sue, and it was not recorded, LAFCO would be sued by the property owner.” Firestone said that the Goleta Water District was involved in pressure applied to LAFCO to record the annexation. “Why it’s been unrecorded for ten years is difficult to explain.”
Now that the annexation has been made, Chytilo said that GCC is evaluating their options as to what to do next. “Certainly this raises great concerns to LAFCO’s commitment to preserving the Gaviota Coast,” he said. “It doesn’t change the zoning, and it doesn’t change the property,” said LAFCO executive officer Bob Braitman, “it just puts the property within the boundaries of the Goleta Water District.