The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors debated the fate of the controversial Naples Ranch development at Tuesday’s regularly scheduled meeting, but ultimately postponed any final decisions on the issue.
The development plan has seen a series of lawsuits since property owner Matt Osgood — an Orange County developer and Santa Barbara Ranch owner — defaulted on a loan in December 2009, causing First Bank of Missouri to seize control of the land. While Osgood sought a further extension of his first refusal rights from the board, the supervisors voted 3-1-1 to put the motion on hold until their April 5 meeting, allowing the involved parties to settle issues of ownership.
Osgood purchased the land in 1998 with plans to develop over 70 estates on the 3,200 acre property. In December 2009, he failed to make a $3.1 million payment on his $63 million loan from First Bank.
The property development’s current state is further complicated due to a lawsuit with the Environmental Defense Center and Surfrider Foundation.
Santa Barbara County 4th District Supervisor Joni Gray said the lack of progress on the issue was frustrating, as neither First Bank nor the SB Ranch representatives were willing to assume liability for the development.
“Nobody seemed to know who was totally responsible, and nobody wants to take responsibility,” Gray said. “It was very unclear.”
Although a representative from First Bank said the bank assumed the developer’s role after seizing the land, Osgood’s attorney, Stanley Lamport, contested the claim. According to Lamport, SB Ranch LLC still held developer rights and still owned several parcels of land on the property.
Fifth District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino said he abstained from voting on the motion because of the complicated nature of the issue.
“This item has been going on for years,” Lavagnino said. “It is a serious ball of snakes.”
According to 3rd District Supervisor Doreen Farr, the project has been a hassle since it was approved just before she took office.
“It was a complicated issue at the start, and it looks like it is staying on that path,” Farr said. “The situation was not only not clarified, it was complicated further [at yesterday’s meeting].”
Farr said it is not within the board’s duties to resolve ownership disputes.
“It seems like more of an issue between Mr. Osgood and First Bank,” Farr said. “We told them they needed to sort it out and get back to us.”