The largest tract of open land in Goleta is one step closer to becoming a new housing development and shopping center.

The proposed Bishop Ranch development would occupy the area just north of Highway 101, in between Glen Annie and Los Carneros Roads. The project would encompass 240 acres of land currently zoned for agricultural use. The developers, Bishop Ranch LLC, recently concluded four months of community outreach programs to solicit public opinion on the project and are now making steps toward completing the project.

In a report released on Jan. 24, Michael Keston, chairman and CEO of Bishop Ranch’s parent company, the Encino, Calif.-based Larwin Company, said that the company plans to submit a project application within three months.

“In the next 60 to 90 days, we plan to submit a project application to the City of Goleta … which will reflect the thoughts, concerns, issues and dialogue that occurred during the Community Working Group meetings,” Keston said.

Goleta Mayor Michael T. Bennett said he thinks construction of the development will eventually occur.

“I think, absolutely, it will happen someday,” Bennett said. “I just don’t know when that day will be.”

According to Michael Nolte, head of the Larwin Company’s Santa Barbara office, Bishop Ranch was a work in process since 1998. Public outreach began in September of 2007, and in the subsequent five months, seven public meetings with a total of 300 registered guests have taken place.

A key concern brought up by a few Goleta residents was the potentially heavy increase in traffic. The property does not directly border Los Carneros Road, meaning the only entrances would exist on Glen Annie Road and Cathedral Oaks Road. This would potentially funnel the traffic onto Glen Annie Road and could cause serious traffic problems.

A comprehensive look into the possible impacts concerning traffic has not yet taken place.

However, Nolte said the project’s included shopping center, planned to cover approximately eight acres, could reduce the amount of traffic heading to the larger shopping centers south of Highway 101.

“It would provide a much needed commercial facility which could have a major impact on reducing traffic moving from the north side of 101 to the congested south side,” Nolte said.

If the project is accepted by the county, a comprehensive review process will begin. This includes drafting an Environmental Impact Report, as well as evaluating all possible impacts the development would have on the community.