The County Board of Supervisors voted this week to reject a controversial amendment to the 71-home Santa Barbara Ranch project at Naples.
The future of the contentious development project remains in limbo following the board’s vote Tuesday, which reversed a closed session decision the made last October. The board acted after October’s decision — an amendment to a 2002 Memorandum of Understanding — drew sharp opposition from environmental groups.
With Doreen Farr acting as the new 3rd District supervisor, the board voted last month to hold a vote on the amendment in a public session. On Tuesday, the board voted 3-1-1 to reject the amendment, with 4th District Supervisor Joni Gray abstaining.
The amended MOU would have allowed Matt Osgood, an Orange County developer who purchased the land 11 years ago, to begin building the inland portions of the project without final approval from the California Coastal Commission, who has the final word on coastal development projects. With the amendment out, the project is stuck until it gains the approval of the CCC, which has already sent back the county’s application to build, claiming it was incomplete.
Osgood, who has been fighting for over a decade to get his project built, reacted adversely to the news that the board would hold another vote on the amendment. In the days after the decision, he sent a letter to the county stating he was terminating the MOU and would continue the process of developing the inland portions of the project. At Tuesday’s meeting, however, County Counsel indicated that these reactions are not permissible.
It remains unclear how Osgood will proceed, but some feel his actions thus far speak for themselves.
“The applicant wants to have his cake and eat it, too,” Phil McKenna, president of the Naples Coalition, said in a press release. “He has terminated his agreement with the county and rejected the board’s approvals. That means the project is dead.”
The decision to reject the amendment to the MOU is the first step in a complex process the new board has undertaken to address development at Naples. A meeting has been scheduled for May, at which time Osgood is expected to explain how he intends to proceed through county and Coastal Commission review processes.
While the future of the project remains unknown, many who have fought against it for years are pleased with the direction the new board is taking.
“All along, everyone has been saying that it is important to approach planning at Naples in a comprehensive and orderly manner,” Brian Trautwein of the Environmental Defense Center said in a press release. “Today, the board lived up to the spirit of that idea.”