Santa Ynez Valley Alliance
Women's Environmental Watch
Preservation of Los Olivos
Preservation of Santa Ynez
Meadowlark Ranches Homeowners Association

July 9, 2007

Open letter to the Santa Ynez Valley Community:

A major expansion to the Santa Ynez Valley Airport is now moving forward AND it is moving FAST. A recent decision by County staff has propelled this project forward, allowing it to be decided in the next three to four months. As groups representing hundreds of Valley residents, we believe that it is our responsibility to educate the public about the breadth of this expansion before it is too late.

County staff is currently requiring that only a Negative Declaration (ND), instead of an Environmental Impact Report (EIR), be prepared on this very complicated project. As a result, in the next 4-6 weeks, the County will issue this ND and hold a public hearing to take input on the project's many impacts. It is of utmost importance that the residents of the Valley understand the potential impacts that could result from this expansion and that they make their views heard.

The Project: The existing 125-acre airport site currently contains approximately 183,245 sq. ft. of development. Four new phases are planned, as follows: Phases 1 and 2 would add about 126,015 additional sq. ft. of development, 6 helipads and a 12,500 sq. ft. parking lot. Phase 3 would add at least another 18,000 sq. ft. of development and 63,500 sq. ft. of parking, thus almost doubling the existing development on the site. This represents a major expansion of the airport, not to mention the 500 foot runway extension in Phase 4 which could result in significantly increased usage by small (very light) private jets of up to six passengers that do not currently use this airport.

In short, the issues raised by the project fall into two categories: 1) impacts of the project and 2) the process.

Significant Impacts: Given the proposed location of the new hangars and the helipads, this project will have a significant impact on the following:

· NOISE- Santa Ynez residents living in the vicinity of the airport already experience intolerable noise due to helicopter traffic. Creating six new helipads on the property will place this airport, in terms of helicopter capacity, between the John Wayne Airport in Orange County and the Long Beach Airport. As usage increases, noise will increase and it will impact everyone, including residents far from the airport. The new location of the helipads will also expose people visiting the Gainey Winery to "excessive noise levels", thereby adversely impacting that agricultural operation as a whole. The Initial Study doesn’t even bother to consider how this proposal will affect other nearby agricultural operations, such as impacts to horse and cattle operations. Protection of agriculture is critical to the protection of the rural character of the Santa Ynez Valley.

· VISUAL- the new hangars will be large warehouse type structures and will be highly visible from Highway 246 and will also be visible from Highway 154, as well as other Valley locations.

Process: The ND is considering only two of four phases of the planned expansion, thus limiting the information the public will receive about potential impacts. In addition, the ND will not consider the planned Emergency Operations Center being proposed for the site. The result will be completely inadequate information on cumulative impacts so critical for public disclosure and good decision-making, leading to piecemeal development on the property. Furthermore, no alternatives will be analyzed in the ND as they would be in an EIR. Santa Barbara County has always had a policy of full disclosure, but now we are being dealt an incredibly incomplete deck of cards. The community has a right to know the FULL IMPACTS of the airport expansion.

Unresolved Issues. Finally, there are many unresolved issues relating to the former landfill and County road yard on the site, as well as at least 15,000 cubic yards of unconsolidated fill brought on to the property from the Casino and the High School, without any type of permit.

Now is the time to get involved!!! PLEASE- CLICK HERE TO SEND THIS LETTER to the email addresses contained in the letter.  It's easy to do. To find out more, please contact one of the organizations listed below. The shape of this project is in our hands, but only if we take part in the process.

Women's Environmental Watch:
Santa Ynez Valley Alliance:
Preservation of Los Olivos:
Preservation of Santa Ynez:
Meadowlark Ranches Homeowners Association: