Student and community members met yesterday to discuss the county’s recent rejection of the state’s modified Land Use and Development Code proposal.

Yesterday’s forum “Protecting our Coast” featured discussion from local environmental authorities Glenn Russell, Paul VanLeer and Linda Krop about public confusion over the county’s refusal of the state’s revised land use code. The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors and California Coastal Commission are stuck in gridlock over the state’s proposed changes that would require stricter permit requirements for local farmers and landowners.

The board rejected the state’s proposal on Feb. 1 at the request of local landowners opposed to the state’s revisions.

Glenn Russell, County Planning and Development director, said coastal landowners were concerned over their lack of involvement during the board’s decision process.

“Many of the concerns with the proposed modifications we were ultimately able to work through,” Russell said. “However, there was a feeling that there was a lack of public participation … in the revised plan.”

The Board of Supervisors adopted a land use development code in 2007 and sent it to the commission for approval. The state commission claimed the code did not provide adequate protection for agricultural land and bluff regions along the coast and modified the proposal by adding new agricultural permit requirements under the Coastal Act for landowners and farmers. The commission also requested that the board prohibit construction of stairways on private bluffs.

Paul VanLeer, member of the county’s Agricultural Advisory Council, said the commission modified the proposal without seeking input from the community.

“I would like to see the issues as thought of locally,” VanLeer said. “The Coastal Commission had the last word but in the future I would like to see the issues handled from the bottom up.”

The state commission included the increase in permit requirements in the proposal because of requirements in the 1976 California Coastal Act.

According to Linda Krop, chief counsel of the Environmental Defense Program, establishing permit requirements would provide definite project guidelines for coastal farmers and landowners.

“Requiring a permit would make certain that agricultural activities were in line with coastal policies,” Krop said.

Despite contention, Russell said the board and state commission agree on the majority of the revised proposal.

“We work in partnership,” Russell said. “Our relationship with the commission is not one that we take lightly and our goal of preserving the coasts of California is mutual.”

Coastal Commission staff member Sarah Christie said the land use code has implications beyond the jurisdiction of the county.

“It can feel that Santa Barbara is being singled out or targeted,” Christie said. “But in order to keep our state healthy economically we have to keep it healthy resourcefully, and in the end it is not local policies that carry the day regarding the preservation of the coast but the Coastal Act.”