Trails Council Takes Stand at Las VarasPosted by Ray Ford on Apr 29, 2012 in Coastal Trail, Las Varas | 0 comments
Route Proposed by SBCTC Critical to Coastal Alignment
We are writing to express our deep concern that the County’s planning process for the Las Varas Ranch Development project has veered badly off course. We respectfully request that your Board provide direction to County staff and the Planning Commission to address the concerns raised by 14 civic groups and dozens of citizens regarding the acquisition of an appropriately sited easement for the CCT and provision of long-planned coastal access to Edwards Point.
On April 17, three members of the Trails Council Board, including President Otis Calef and Executive Director Ray Ford spoke at the County Board of Supervisors in support of a motion to redirect discussion of the Coastal Trail through Las Varas Ranch to the County Planning Commission.
The Trails Council has been instrumental in fighting the battle to keep the alignment of the CA Coastal Trail within the sights and sounds of the ocean as proscribed by state and county policy rather than the location the Las Varas owners propose on the north side of Highway 101.
In a strongly worded letter to Board Chair Doreen Farr, SBCTC urged the Board of Supervisors to listen to the concerns of the broad coalition of community organizations that have weighed in on this matter . The full body of the letter is provided below:
Honorable Chair Farr and Board Members,
The Santa Barbara Trails Council (Trails Council) is a broad based trails advocacy group consisting of hikers, equestrians, trail runners and mountain bikers. The Trails Council was formed in 1967 to advocate for planning and construction of new trails and to help organize work parties to maintain existing trails. Over the last 40 years, the Trails Council has worked cooperatively with the County on planning for, improving and maintaining the County’s trail system.
As an organization, we have substantial experience with planning, designing and constructing new trails. We are currently working with the US Forest Service and the County to complete a 3.5 mile trail from Baron Ranch to the crest of the Santa Ynez Mountains, with the Orcutt Trails Commission to build a 4.5 trail in the Solomon Hills, with Midland School to open new trails in the Santa Ynez Valley and with the City of Goleta to construct a 2.1 mile-long buff top trail system, including a segment of the California Coastal Trail (CCT) on the Ellwood Mesa.
We are writing to express our deep concern that the County’s planning process for the Las Varas Ranch Development project has veered badly off course. We respectfully request that your Board provide direction to County staff and the Planning Commission to address the concerns raised by 14 civic groups and dozens of citizens regarding the acquisition of an appropriately sited easement for the CCT and provision of long-planned coastal access to Edwards Point. We note that citizens and organizations from throughout the County have weighed in on the proposed non-coastal location of the CCT as a matter of countywide concern and have requested that the County insist on acquisition of a bluff top location for the CCT.
In particular, we are deeply concerned that Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the Las Varas Ranch development project is shockingly flawed in its analysis of impacts to recreation, land use, consistency with adopted plans and policies, agriculture and project alternatives (refer to Attachment A. As such, we respectfully request:
That the Board direct County staff to revise this EIR to address the serious deficiencies raised by the public and civic groups and discussed below and then recirculate this EIR for public comment.
Only when an adequate EIR has been prepared, consistent with the mandates of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to use low thresholds and a employ reasonable worst case analysis will the County and concerned citizens and civic organizations have sufficient information to consider the impacts of the proposed development project, its consistency with adopted State and County policies and the relationship between project impacts and required mitigation measures and exactions.
In closing, the Trails Council takes no position on the Las Varas Ranch development project as a whole, and our primary interest remains acquisition of a properly sited near-shore location for the CCT as well as adequate coastal access. However, we respectfully request that the Board of Supervisors restore integrity to the County’s environmental planning process for this project by directing a complete revision to, and recirculation of the EIR. We sincerely hope that the Board will listen to the concerns of the broad coalition of community organizations that have weighed in on this matter.
Thank you for considering this input. It is our firm belief that after completion of a thorough and adequate EIR, the County will have the evidential basis to either exact an easement for a near shoreline location for the CCT and appropriate coastal access or to deny the proposed project. We look forward to working more closely with County staff in the future on this matter and reviewing the revised EIR and planning documents that explore these issues.
Santa Barbara Trails Council