Archive » July 16, 2009
Valley Plan passes commission’s muster
By Jeremy Foster, Staff Writer
The controversial “downzoning” proposal, which would increase minimum allowable lot sizes to 40 acres and allow less development per acre, had stalled the plan from moving forward at the commission’s June 29 meeting.
The latest hearing saw the plan’s environmental impact review pass smoothly in a unanimous vote, but commissioners were divided about whether to approve the plan with the downzoning proposal. Commissioners Joe Valencia and Dan Bough, of the 4th and 5th districts, respectively, voted against the plan.
“The previous stewards of the valley have done a great job at preserving the valley and its majestic beauty,” Valencia said. ”As a commissioner appointed to protect the goals and policies of the county, I find that these rules are protecting the rights of property owners, and I would be derelict if I voted to restrict their rights. In my view their rights are grandfathered, and by voting for the proposal of the Santa Ynez Plan, I ask the question: what is the condition of the valley? It looks great to me.”
First District Commissioner Michael Cooney acknowledged that the plan has gone through impassioned debate and that there is “a lot of work left ahead,” but said he was confident that “the board will be getting a thorough recommendation.”
Commissioner Cecilia Brown echoed his sentiment.
“Certainly the plan is not without its controversies, and I think that we’ve provided some recommendation to the board today for them to further consider the various issues involved,” she said.
County staff was directed to send along a list of action items for the Board of Supervisors to consider regarding lingering issues about some properties set to be downzoned.
One such property belongs to the Lindemann family, 1,000 acres of land east of Highway 154 and comprising 25 percent of the proposed downzone boundary.
The family has asked staff to keep some of their property out of ag-2 zoning — county designation for intensive agriculture — which would restrict their parcel sizes to a minimum of 100 acres, allowing only 10 separate lots.
Robert Lindemann told the board that the family was working out a subdivision so that family members would be able to settle on their own lots.
”I was very disappointed that an attempt was made to sidetrack our planning application by putting in some spurious reasons to delay sending us a letter of completeness,” Lindemann said. “This was after spending some two years and several hundred thousand dollars complying with all the requirements.
“Now we’re told to create neat boundaries on parcels such as ours where no subdivision had taken place over the years,” he added. “This is punishing those who have been slow to subdivide in the past. This is spot-zoning at its most blatant … and I will, if necessary, litigate to protect our rights.”
Spot zoning is a term generally applied to rezoning property for uses that are clearly not in line with the surrounding area. Commissioners had considered complaints by Lindemann and others, but ultimately the majority decided to move ahead with the plan.
“There is no doubt that no matter what we do, there will be changing at the board,” Brown had said earlier in the meeting. “Instead of slicing and dicing here, I’d recommend that we support the staff’s proposal.”
Before voting on the plan, Chairman Blough bristled at the plan that was to be adopted.
“I can’t in good conscience sit back and vote yes when the primary purpose is agricultural preservation and ag committee comes up and says, ‘Don’t extend the boundaries. Don’t rezone the properties,’” he said.
“I think we’re kidding ourselves that we’re doing anything for agriculture. I really have a problem when we take and put zoning on existing parcels and create non-conforming parcels. To me it’s goofy. It makes no sense.
“I understand doing that if we were talking about a downtown commercial area where there is likelihood that the house gets torn down and it becomes commercial in the adjoined properties. But to go out into the countryside and take an existing five-acre parcel and zone it to a 40-acre parcel just doesn’t make sense.”