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Yesterday afternoon, the Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce held an Issue and Policy Roundtable luncheon discussion touching on the Goleta Agricultural Land Protection Initiative at the Elephant Bar Restaurant in Goleta.
The initiative, which is the only measure pushed forth by the City of Goleta in nearly a decade, would require that major sections of local agricultural land gain approval following re-zoning. Measure G requires voters and city council members to approve any and all changes to policies and designations of land areas that are 10 acres wide or larger. However, the Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce states on their website that the measure is unfavorable since it does not protect agriculture and the City Council and General Plan already address agricultural land use and ballot box planning as inadequate.
According to Eric Onnen, owner of Santa Barbara Airbus, member of the Chamber of Commerce and former Goleta mayor, the bill is a “solution looking for a problem.” Onnen said Measure G is not only unnecessary but can have potentially harmful repercussions such as excessive costs.
“It is a bad way to deal with the land use development process and it has a lot of potential negative consequences that cannot be clearly determined at this time, and [it] is fundamentally unnecessary,” Onnen said. “It can affect our economic vitality in the long-run. This kind of process is not well documented, well thought-out or well designed and can have consequences that will negatively affect a lot of things within the city.”
As one of the event’s main speakers, Onnen said proponents of the legislation have political interests that extend beyond the agricultural issues with which it is supposedly concerned.
“This measure is really another method to control growth,” Onnen said.
George Relles, spokesperson for the Good Land Coalition Committee, argued in favor of Measure G, stating that it provides a way for locals to voice their concerns and play a role in the developmental process.
“What [the Committee] is saying is that the kinds of impacts that can happen are over the largest remaining pieces of agricultural property in Goleta,” Relles said. “We want to make sure that the people — the voters [who are] affected — have a chance to have a say.”
According to Relles, it is important for voters to be educated on the initiative because voters should be able to express their thoughts over a measure’s potential impacts. He said that the council does a “pretty good job” of achieving these goals but still fails to provide local community members with adequate information, adding that the general plan is too easy to change since it only needs “three votes — any Tuesday.”
Jim Farr, a candidate running for the Goleta City Council, said the effect of the measure is important since it outlines what Goleta will and will not permit as it handles the constraints and obstacles presented by an ever-growing community.
“This is a huge issue,” Farr said. “We must find a way to defend the economic well-being of this area [but] I personally have not taken a position on either side because I would like to see how this plays out.”