The Naples debate returned with vengeance at the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors this week. Confusion and legal bickering reigned supreme as the supes voted 3-1 to reverse a closed session decision made by the board last fall en route to their eventual approval of Matt Osgood’s 71 large-scale luxury home vision for the historic Gaviota Coast property. (Joe Centeno opposed; Joni Gray abstained, due to a self-admitted lack of understanding.)
While all parties involved were left wondering what exactly this week’s vote means for the fate of the project and a longstanding – though currently on-hold multimillion dollar lawsuit levied against the county by Osgood and Naples former owners, one thing is certain: Despite enjoying both development agreements and approvals from the county, Osgood’s plan is no closer to becoming a reality than it was five months ago. In fact, to hear opponents tell it, it might be even further away.
In early October last year, the supervisors decided behind closed doors to separate the inland portions of the project from the coastal one, basically paving the way for houses out of the coastal zone to commence construction even if the bluff-top mansions get held up at the California Coastal Commission. The Environmental Defense Center cried foul over this decision, calling it a Brown Act violation and, in a closed session meeting last month, the new incarnation of the board voted to revisit the discussion.
This week’s vote basically says the October vote never happened, but the implications of this are very much up for debate. Included in the list of unknowns is whether inland and coastal projects are now linked or separate. The supervisors hope to explore the topic in early May once county staff has ample time to digest the situation.
Osgood, meanwhile, explained after the meeting that little has changed from his perspective and that he plans to move forward with his inland construction and his application process with the Coastal Commission to gain approval for the controversial 16 bluff-top homes. He hopes to break ground by 2010. When asked if he intended to be a part of a May meeting, Osgood laughed, “That is a great question. I am not sure what there is to talk about.”