Archive » December 24, 2008
ON THE RANCH
By Nancy Crawford-Hall, Publisher
There has been a lot in the news lately concerning several local development projects both in the valley and elsewhere in the county. The La Purisima Golf Course application to build a hotel and housing units on AG-100 zoned land, the additions to Mattei’s Tavern, the Naples development and the Crossroads entertainment facility on AG land on Foxen Canyon Road in Los Olivos, have all have had considerable public discussion to determine what is the proper designation for those particular projects.
Once again this public airing often ends up pitting property owners against members of the public who have no financial stake in the project and who primarily are pushing a no development period agenda.
The purpose of zoning designations and other planning declarations are to attempt to provide a direction for areas of the county that community leaders and elected officials together have selected for certain purposes.
These purposes range from highly developed urban areas, surrounded by less and less developed areas to finally larger tracts of land that are designated for agricultural pursuits of various types. This seems to be a sensible plan but must include some common sense in providing for individual projects. Ultimately, it is the property owner’s choice, within relevant guidelines, as to how the property is used.
As a community member for over 50 years, I have seen many changes in this county, as I know many of you have as well. Aside from the traffic, many properties that were vacant are now filled with businesses or homes. Instead of hillsides with cattle grazing, we now have thousands of acres of vineyards operated and owned by large companies.
Instead of people who have lived here for generations, we have lots of people who have moved here recently who have dreams of their own about living in the country with a couple of animals enjoying the fresh air and views. As such, as the years have passed, we now have many different dreams having lived here with different motivations and visions of how our county should look. There are those who want things to look just the same as it did when they moved here and want nothing more developed but from the “old timer’s” perspective, those people’s homes have already created change.
The point I am making is that this is part of life and, as some have done, when it becomes too much, one picks up and moves elsewhere.
For those of us who don’t really have that option for whatever reason, we must live with whatever changes occur and fervently hope that whatever occurs next door will not threaten our existence.
I believe a property owner’s reason for asking to make an exception must be seriously considered, as it may be the only reasonable change that will support their being able to hang on to that land.
The often sad conclusion to a refusal from the county is essentially a forced sale to someone else who may be a developer who has more pull with the powers that be.
Community members need to remember that a property owner has had the obligation, often for many years or even generations, and responsibility of caring for their property, maintaining it in good condition and paying all fees and taxes that are related to that ownership.
Owning property is not a simple task but rather a stewardship obligation that most are willingly take on.
If it were not for those property owners, Santa Barbara County and other scenic areas would not have the scenic qualities that they continue to have.
Unfortunately, in recent years, local activist groups have decided that their views of the county should be paramount to that of the landowners and that public officials have an obligation to give their opinion as much weight as those who have financial and lifestyle impacts associated with the request.
In recent years huge blocks of agricultural land have been destined by these activists for massive down-zoning, depreciating their value enormously, upon which taxes have been paid for years. Furthermore, although one’s property may now be worth less than half of what it was before the down-zoning, there is no intention to compensate the landowners by reducing their tax burden. This is pure and simple robbery from the current owners and all of the heirs to follow.
These same activist groups such as The Naples Coalition, the Environmental Defense Center, Surfrider Foundation, the Citizens Planning Association, Valley Alliance and numerous others are poised to impact the viability of the county and its residents by suing over projects and bankrupting landowners and the county itself eventually.
The county is currently on vacation due to a lack of funds, so it doesn’t take too much imagination to see that we will all be impacted by what these self-serving groups are doing.
Landowners are watching to see what happens with the Naples development Project to see whether it is worth owning land here or not.
My advice to those groups is to think long and hard before continuing this tactic because it could very well blow up in their faces with properties being sold for development rather than going through long-protracted, expensive lawsuits. I would suggest that while their comments are welcome, their agendas are not, and when they own the property then they can say how it is maintained. Until then, their opinions are just that.
even more curious
Due to some of the observations I have mentioned regarding the recent local election, the Steve Pappas for 3rd District Campaign has spent the last two weeks looking at “in detail” the supporting documentation of the recount of the UCSB/IV precincts and is now evaluating its findings.
The campaign took a close look at registration cards, absentee ballot envelopes, provisional ballot envelopes and various requested reports. Among other things, it was noted that thousands of new registrations were turned in by on-campus registration drives on Oct. 20 (the last day to drop off new registrations) and that occurrences such as these are of particular interest.
The campaign reiterated that its primary interest in the recount was not to expect any change in the outcome of the election but rather to be able to examine the paper trail to the ballots cast.
The campaign is continuing its investigation.
This week we are all celebrating some holiday. In our diverse community we are celebrating a merry Christmas, a happy Hannukah, a happy Kwanzaa and Boxing Day. I think we all know about each of those holidays but you may not be as familiar with Boxing Day, which occurs the day after Christmas for British and Canadian folks.
We are fortunate to have with us our relatives from England who we toured Scotland and the Chelsea Flower Show with this past spring. They have spent a few days with us here in the valley while they recover from the 11-plus hour flight and will fly with us to our place in Hawai’i for a first ever visit to the islands.
While here at the ranch they have enjoyed many of our fine restaurants and holiday sights.
Every day, they take walks around the ranch and have been very pleased to see many deer, turkeys and numerous species of birds that they are not very familiar with. Other than the first day they arrived, when it was rainy and very cold, they have marveled at the sunny days we have had and are looking forward to the Hawai’ian warmth.
In the meantime, please have a wonderful holiday no matter which one or ones you celebrate, enjoy your families, gifts and special meals and, let’s give thanks that we are so lucky to live in this enchanted place.
Let 2009 be a magnificent year for all of us!