By Giana Magnoli
Noozhawk Managing Editor
The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors has ordered the Golden Inn & Village development to make more adjustments to its lighting but denied an appeal of the project approval that was filed by two neighbors.
Mark Brooks and Patti Stewart, residents of Lucky Lane near the development at 860 N. Refugio Road in Santa Ynez, have concerns about the site’s lighting and drainage, and appealed the county Planning Commission’s decision to approve development plan revisions.
The Golden Inn & Village project completed affordable senior housing and family apartments on the site last year, and has a Phase 2 still to come with assisted-living and memory-care facilities.
The plans for the senior housing phase’s lighting and stormwater drainage were changed before construction, and the developers – including the Rona Barrett Foundation and the Housing Authority of the County of Santa Barbara and its project manager, RRM Design Group – went to the county afterward for approval on the changes.
The Planning Commission approved lighting plan revisions on Sept. 27, allowing the existing lighting, which is on 20-foot-tall poles instead of the original plan’s 8-foot poles.
Neighbors have also been concerned about the project’s drainage.
The development plans had included detaining some off-site stormwater, but it was dropped from construction after an engineer said it was a bad idea, according to Lisa Plowman of RRM Design Group.
“Unfortunately, the project approved was not the project that was built,” Stewart told the Board of Supervisors, calling the after-the-fact plan changes a bait-and-switch tactic.
Plowman said the approved dark-sky lighting plan didn’t meet safety standards, and when the architecture firm made changes, they didn’t alert planning staff.
The 20-foot light poles were in the version of the plans that were given permits and approval but were apparently overlooked, and both Plowman and county planning staff said they take lessons away from the breakdowns in communication.
At the March 20 meeting, the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to deny the appeal and uphold the project’s approval.
In the motion, supervisors also told Golden Inn & Village to change out one light pole for a motion sensor light and to add screening for the southernmost parking area, whether that is by landscaping or a wall.
Third District Supervisor Joan Hartmann asked developers and planning staff to think about lessons learned with this project to avoid making the same mistakes.
“Government is only as good as the people who watch over it,” she said, addressing Brooks and Stewart, and thanking them for their attention to the project.