Much to the chagrin of local environmental groups, the pieces seem to be falling into place for Matt Osgood and his 11-year quest to develop much of the coastline north of Isla Vista.
In a closed-door session yesterday, the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors voted three to two to amend the language of a 2002 agreement between the county and developer Matt Osgood. Now, if the board opts to approve Osgood’s proposal to build 71 estate-sized homes along the Naples Coast — a pristine stretch of coastline a few miles north of I.V. — at their Monday, October 13 meeting, all the barriers preventing the construction of dozens of “McMansions” will be lifted.
“This was basically the worst thing they could have done,” Marc Chytilo, attorney for the Naples Coalition, said. “They absolutely should not have done that and by doing so have seriously compromised the county’s position on the matter.”
In 2002, board of supervisors entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with Osgood, who purchased the land at Naples in 1997. Under the MOU, both sides agreed to halt legal bickering in exchange for the county’s word that it would fairly consider a proposal to build 54 houses – including 16 on the coastal terrace – on the 485 acres Osgood controls. The parcel is currently divided into 233 legal lots. Since then, the MOU has been altered to include a neighboring development, Dos Pueblos Ranch, bringing the total number of houses to 71.
While the project as a whole will be considered by the board on Monday, under the revised MOU, approval by the California Coastal Commission would not be needed prior to construction of inland lots.
This constitutes a major victory for Osgood — especially considering the long battle he is expected to have in getting the coastal commission’s approval for the 16 coastal homes. If not for the board’s decision yesterday, Osgood would have had to wait for the approval of the commission prior to breaking ground inland, too.
Essentially, opponents said, yesterday’s decision sped up the development process and gave conversationalists less time to fight the project.
Mike Lunsford, president of the Gaviota Coast Conservancy and a member of the Naples Coalition board of directors, said in a press release that he felt Osgood has continually received preferential treatment by the board.
“The County has given Osgood carte blanche treatment throughout the processing of this massive project on the Gaviota Coast,” Lunsford said. “Osgood wanted a much larger project than the MOU permitted, and the county gave it to him. Osgood wanted to build his inland development before the coastal commission review, and the county gave him that too.”
Third District Supervisor Brooks Firestone — Isla Vista’s only elected official — defended his vote for changing the MOU, saying that it was necessary to protect against even more development.
“I voted to protect the Memorandum of Understanding,” Firestone said. “What people are not referencing is that because Osgood is a land owner, he has the right to sell the  lots and the buyers have the right to develop them that day. It’s not a question of whether [Naples will be developed], but how the development will happen.”
“It was a judgment call,” he added.
Marc Chytilo, however, equates Firestone’s vote with a desire to please the developer.
“The board is doing this because this is what the developer wants,” Chytilo said.
“This gives the developer the benefits of the coastal package with Dos Pueblos Ranch without having to go through the coastal commission.”
The board of supervisors will vote on the proposal Monday, Oct. 13 at 9 a.m., at the County Administration Building on 105 E. Anapamu St.