Op-Ed: El Capitan Canyon Resort Expansion Appeal Delayed

New construction in Gaviota as part of the El Capitan Canyon campground expansion. (Photo: Gaviota Coast Conservancy)

By Doug Kern, Executive Director of the Gaviota Coast Conservancy

[On Wednesday] the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission was poised to hear an appeal filed by the Gaviota Coast Conservancy (GCC), challenging the County Central Board of Architectural Review’s approval of new development at the El Capitan Canyon Resort. Hundreds of public comments supporting the appeal and raising independent concerns about the project were lodged in the official record, but several late submitted letters – and a quandary over whether to vote them into the official record – caused the Commission to continue the proceedings to April 10th.

In particular, a 2.5 page letter from former El Capitan Canyon Resort owner Roger Himowitz, defending approvals that happened on his watch and levying various accusations at GCC, gave the Commission pause, wanting to ensure that GCC and the public had the opportunity to review it and respond. The continuance request was ultimately supported by both the Appellant and Applicant.

According to Ana Citrin, GCC’s Legal and Policy Director who was prepared to present GCC’s appeal today, “generally Mr. Himowitz complains that GCC was aware of and did not oppose the expansion proposal in 2010. GCC’s appeal however concerns whether the Gaviota Coast Plan approved in 2016 and certified by the Coastal Commission in 2018 applies to approvals being issued now that are required to build out the 2010 project. Application of the Gaviota Coast Plan will not stop the expansion, but it would ensure that it is developed in a manner that protects the viewshed to the maximum extent feasible.”

[At Wednesday’s hearing I ] expressed disappointment, stating, “It’s regrettable that so many individuals dedicated their valuable time to testify at this hearing, only for it to be halted due to a last-minute submission containing baseless, irrelevant, and frankly offensive allegations against GCC.” He emphasized the significance of upholding the Gaviota Coast Plan and safeguarding the visual integrity of the Gaviota Coast, as evidenced by the impressive turnout at the hearing. Kern clarified, “Our objective is not to harbor animosity towards the Project Applicants; rather, we simply advocate for adherence to regulations, as expected of all parties involved.”

Materials for the April 10th hearing will be posted on the Planning Commission’s website (https://cosantabarbara.app.box.com/s/q97rv82305oyfnbdjhcyxrrdhu3dgkqy) no later than April 4th. Written public comments will be received through noon on April 8th.

Op-Ed’s are written by community members, not representatives of edhat. The views and opinions expressed in Op-Ed articles are those of the author’s.

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Written by GaviotaCoastConservancy

Protecting the Gaviota Coast since 1996, the Gaviota Coast Conservancy has grown from a local, grass-roots movement to become a community catalyst partnering with other organizations to advance the public interest in this area. Learn more at gaviotacoastconservancy.org

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