MIXED-USE PROJECT NIXED FOR SANTA YNEZ
NORA K. WALLACE, NEWS-PRESS STAFF WRITER
April 13, 2006
A nonprofit corporation hoping to build a large mixed-use project in Santa Ynez heard a clear message from the county Planning Commission Wednesday: location, location, location.
The Cabrillo Economic Development Corp. has spent three years trying to craft a mix of commercial and residential units at 1075 Meadowvale in the rural township, just steps from the downtown corridor and a block from Highway 246.
“It’s too dense, too much, too urban for the rural community of Santa Ynez,” said Evans Jones, a member of the Central Board of Architectural Review, which also heard the design review plan on Wednesday in Santa Maria. “It’s just too big and too massive.”
It was the second significant development this week involving major proposals in rural towns of the Santa Ynez Valley.
Earlier this week, businessman Larry Saarloos withdrew his Los Olivos Stage Stop Plaza project from the commission’s agenda after a major proposed tenant -- the Wildling Art Museum -- pulled out.
The Saticoy-based Cabrillo Economic Development Corp. hoped to get further than Stage Stop, and even as late as this week adjusted its plan in an attempt to appease opponents concerned that the proposed 10,000 square feet of commercial use plus 32 residential ownership units was the wrong balance in a community short on commercial space.
Cabrillo on Wednesday subtracted a few condominiums, proposing 29 residential units, and increased the commercial portion to 15,046 square feet.
The three condos it axed came from the 15 units proposed for low-income homebuyers.
“We are willing and happy to meet this benchmark to try and provide as much commercial component as we can,” said project manager Mike Miller.
“There is a real point at which this is not economically feasible for us and not generating the type of housing that meets our mission. There’s only so much we can do.”
Even with the revision, the planning commissioners still suggested there were too many potential issues to move the project forward by allowing a zoning change for the 3-acre plot.
Commissioner Parker Montgomery, representing Santa Ynez, said he also feels strongly that the community plan process must be finalized before such a major development is approved.
That plan, under review now, could take another 18 months to complete.
“The Santa Ynez Valley broke apart a few years ago because of a feeling we had not paid proper respect for the process,” he said.
“I don’t wish to participate in another breaking up of the good sense of community we’re rebuilding in Santa Ynez. This project is too soon.”
Cabrillo’s team appeared somewhat shell shocked following the two-hour hearing.
The message from the commission, said Mr. Miller, “makes it hard to be optimistic.”
The corporation’s housing development director, Karen Flock, said she’s not sure where Cabrillo will go from here.
“There’s such a need for affordable housing for people that live and work here,” she said. “There’s a lot of interest. But not today, apparently.”
Nearby property owner Jon Bowen, president of the group Preservation of Santa Ynez, opposes the plan.
“It’s the wrong site,” he said at the hearing.
“They picked the wrong site, and it’s going to have an impact on Santa Ynez.”
After the hearing, Mr. Bowen noted, “Cabrillo has gotten a clear message that it’s a nice project and the wrong location.
“It’s such a small area. . . . The township would like to see a harmonious commercial development as an attractive gateway to the township and the valley.”