Another marathon meeting about the future of the Eastern Goleta Valley went down on Wednesday before the County Planning Commission, but there was some resolution reached by the end, with the commission voting to study certain parcels of the unincorporated Santa Barbara County land for higher density zoning while leaving others as agriculture.

Particularly, the commissioners decided to leave the San Marcos Growers site — which developers such as the Towbes Group have been itching and scratching to develop — as agriculture and ordered that only the Hollister Avenue-fronting properties in the Hope Ranch Annex area be considered for higher zoning, rather than the entire neighborhood, which had caused quite a deal of rancor. They also advised that the MTD property on Calle Real east of Turnpike Road should be examined at 20 units per acre as well as eight units per acre, and that the Tatum property between San Marcos and Turnpike be examined at 12 and eight units per acre. And at the last minute, egged on by a stern letter from the state that said the plan must consider at least two high-density zoning areas, the commission threw in a 68-acre parcel to be studied at 20 units per acre near the corner of Hollister and Patterson, which is currently a lemon orchard.

The meeting was the fourth in a series of Planning Commission hearings that are intended to draft a 20-year community plan that will then be subjected to environmental review. It was the second meeting on land use and proposed rezonings, which have attracted nearly 100 individuals from the community to speak at length about their concerns and fears of what new zoning would mean for the semi-rural area.

There’s another meeting slated for October 19 where commercial and agricultural zoning, including plans to allow different types of uses on farmland such as inns or restaurants, will be on the table. Then, on November 2, the Planning Commission will consider the entire plan, and vote on sending that to the Board of Supervisors for review. If all passes, an environmental study will start. Final initiation of the plan isn’t expected to be until 2014 at the earliest.


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