A new housing development will be expanding residential Goleta. The Towbes Group, Inc. is building the Willow Springs apartment complex on 18.4 acres of land near Los Carneros Road, Highway 101 and the airport.

According to a press release from the Towbes Group, the 235-unit building is the first large residential development in Goleta in over 20 years. The development company is currently in negotiations to include features such as high-speed internet access, digital television and plug-and-play networking, said Towbes Group representative Stewart Welch.

“These features are not really finalized and are still in the conceptual stage,” Welch said.

Eva Turenchalk, an associate planner for Suzanne Elledge Planning and Permitting Services (SEPPS) said the details of planning the development have been going through a series of meetings between the Planning Commission and the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors. SEPPS has worked with Towbes on issues such as land use planning, permit processing and condition compliance.

“Leasing will begin at the beginning of the year. Units will be leased on a first-come, first-serve basis.” Turenchalk said. “The plan is to have them occupied by summer.”

The complex will offer 47 affordable units through the City of Goleta Affordable Housing Program. The affordable units will be geared toward occupants in the upper-moderate level income range.

Rents for the one-bedroom units will start in the $1200 range. Two-bedroom units will rent for approximately $1600 and three-bedroom units are expected to start at about $1800. The pricing will be slightly less for applicants who qualify for the affordable housing program. Qualified applicants are expected to be able to rent a two-bedroom apartment for $1332 or a three-bedroom unit for $1559. A representative of the Towbes Group was unable to provide a cost for the construction of the entire project.

A new housing development is not the only remarkable entity to occupy the space.

“The property has a fascinating history,” said Matt Dobberteen, supervising planner for the Santa Barbara County Planning and Development Dept. “Long ago, the property owner prior to the developer who’s developing the land now … had been involved in some litigation as to exactly what is delineated as coastal wetlands,” Dobberteen said.

Dobberteen said in the resulting dispute, the previous property owner, Leonard Jaffe, hired off-duty L.A. County Sheriff’s deputies to surround the site and had several acres of wetlands and willow habitat bulldozed. The resulting settlement between the previous landowner and the Army Corps of Engineers is being administered by Goleta Slough Management Committee, Dobberteen said.

“There have been proposals for all kinds of projects on the property,” Dobberteen said. “It was originally going to be developed as a retail center.”

Affordable units are usually made available when developers agree to make a portion of the units of a proposed project regulated affordable housing as a condition of project approval.

Based on the Towbes Group’s expectations to begin leasing, construction on the development will likely be completed in 2003.