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Patrick Nesbitt’s Helicopter Landing Denied

Multimillionaire Hotelier to Appeal County Planning Commission’s Decision

Pat Nesbitt addresses the Santa Barbara Planning Commissioners. (November 7, 2019) | Credit: Paul Wellman

Hotelier Patrick Nesbitt may have lost this battle, but he is still fighting the war.

At the November 7 County Planning Commission meeting, months of neighborhood backlash against Nesbitt’s helicopter landing application came to a head when the commissioners voted 3-1-1 (Commissioner Daniel Blough abstained, and Commissioner Larry Ferini voted against) to deny Nesbitt’s request. 

“Oh, we intend to appeal this,” Nesbitt said of the denial. “We will file our appeal to the County Board of Supervisors within the next 10 days.” 

The decision should have been made months ago, on June 26, but 175 letters of opposition pouring into the Planning Commission gave cause to move the meeting back a few months to September. Nesbitt said he spent those months in between meeting with any critics he could find to sway their disdain, but September 25 came and went and the hearing was packed with more of the same angry neighbors, pleading with the commission not to allow Nesbitt a permit to land and take off in his helicopter from his $65 million Lambert Road property. 

The commission couldn’t make a decision that day, either, and ultimately voted for staff to return to the November 7 hearing with findings for denial. Although staff’s initial findings were inadequate, they took a break and came back after a few hours with additional findings reflective of the substantial amount of public comment on the issue.

“I really appreciate that you amended the findings for denial,” said Marc Chytilo, a frequent public commenter at the helicopter hearings. “It appears the applicant will want to appeal this, so recognizing the significance of public comment will be helpful if this goes before another body.”

The staff findings for denying Nesbitt’s application included that “the loud, percussive nature of the noise caused by helicopter takeoffs and landings” is incompatible with the surrounding neighborhood, adjacent trails, and nearby environmentally sensitive habitat, and that it would disturb equestrian activities on the nearby trails, among other reasons detailed here. 

“I want to paraphrase an old expression here,” Nesbitt said at the hearing. “If God wanted helicopters to only take off and land from airports, he wouldn’t have given them the capability to land and take off vertically.”

This sentiment wasn’t enough to swing the commissioners’ votes, though, so Nesbitt will have to use the airport — for now. 

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