After weathering seven years of tweaking and reworking, as well as a lawsuit aiming to stop it in its tracks, Montecito’s Westmont College has finally gotten the green light to carry out their Master Plan and upgrade the campus.

With no appeals filed against Judge Thomas Anderle’s December ruling, in which he sided with Westmont, the road to implementing the Master Plan looks to be on schedule. The plan was approved by Santa Barbara County, but was temporary derailed by neighboring homeowners who feared that more students and more traffic would come with the updated Master Plan.

However, according to Westmont spokesman Scott Craig, the purpose of the plan is not to accommodate more students, but rather to renovate and replace dated facilities. The school will see no increase in student population as a result of the plan – due to a conditional use policy, Westmont can only enroll 1,200 students regardless of the number of buildings the campus has.

“We’re not really expanding – over 80 acres will remain open spaces – and we’re not increasing enrollment,” Craig said. “We’re improving the facilities on this campus so they better fit the modern day world.”

In regards to his decision, Judge Anderle said the construction will not detract from the surrounding rural environment, but rather serve to improve the quality of the students’ education.

“[The Master Plan] will not result in Westmont building skyscrapers or in any way abandoning the largely rural nature of its campus,” Anderle said. “The proposed project, much of which will not be visible from outside the campus, is geared toward providing an exceptional liberal arts education to those 1,200 [students].”

The Master Plan includes a new art center, science and math buildings, residence halls and a chapel. The initial construction is estimated to take over two years to complete, and another five to start the second phase of construction.

Executive Vice President of Westmont College Cliff Lundberg said that after the court case, various other groups have approved the Master Plan, and it is time to focus on other issues.

“After a positive recommendation by the Montecito Board of Architectural Review, a positive unanimous vote by the Montecito Planning Commission, two favorable votes by the county board of supervisors, and a strong and clear ruling by the court, it is time to move on,” Lundberg said. “Both the lengthy permitting process and the judicial process have confirmed the value and legitimacy of the updated Master Plan.”

In May 2006, the project took on the guidance of both the Montecito Board of Architectural Review and the Montecito Planning Commission. These two groups assisted the college in keeping the 80 acres of campus as open space. In addition, the groups also helped reduce the overall size of the construction by 20,000 square feet.