Supervisors Steve Lavagnino, Das Williams, and Joan Hartmann

A proposal to carve 13 residential parcels out of 4,000 acres of agriculture land north of Los Alamos was shot down Tuesday by the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors. The applicant, represented by Santa Barbara land-use attorney Susan Petrovich, wanted the opportunity to develop each of the parcels on Rancho La Laguna. But the South County supervisors ​— ​Joan Hartmann, Janet Wolf, and Das Williams ​— ​determined the proposal could become a major urban development in the middle of an agriculture area.

Williams questioned the number of parcels being proposed. Hartmann worried subdividing the property would set a precedent for further urban development. They also raised concerns about the existing roads’ ability to handle increased development. “These cumulative impacts are just what the county’s policies are trying to prevent,” Hartmann said.

For her part, Petrovich pledged to place all of the property into the Williamson Act for 20 years. The Williamson Act provides tax breaks for farmers to keep their land in agricultural use for a period of time. She added there are plenty of water wells already on the property to provide for the entire project. “The idea that we are building this enormous residential subdivision is a myth,” she said.

North County supervisors lamented that the seemingly benign project has been subject to delays for 10 years. Supervisor Steve Lavagnino noted the smallest parcel was 160 acres. Supervisor Peter Adam added, “There’s no chance you can eliminate agriculture on these parcels.” At the same time, he noted nothing would preclude a foreign investor from buying the entire property. “We need to stop fighting it so much,” he said. “It’s the way agriculture is going in the 21st century.”


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