Moratorium goes, plan proceeds

“It’s only for a year” was a mantra heard repeatedly in the Goleta City Council’s discussion of interim general plan policies on Monday night. While the city’s first general plan is not likely to be completed for two to three years, the council provided staff with specific direction on the draft and is likely to approve an interim plan on Mar. 1.

A diverse group from the community offered their input. In fact, just about every developer in town opined on the plan, as did representatives from the Santa Barbara Audubon Society, the League of Women Voters, South Coast Livable Communities, Goleta Valley Beautiful, Goleta Housing Leadership Council, and predictably, community members who have commercial and residential projects in the pipeline.

In the interest of fairness to projects in development — some of which have gone through several years of review — the council decided to exclude them from the new rules and to use Monday’s date, Jan. 26, as the cutoff for projects designated as “in the pipeline.”

“I don’t think it’s fair to change rules in the middle of the game,” said Councilwoman Jonny Wallis.

The objectives of the interim general plan policies — which are scheduled to go back to the council for final review and public comment on Mar. 1 — are twofold. “We are trying to craft a set of appropriate rules that communicate our expectations to the applicants at the door,” said councilman Jack Hawxhurst. “We are also trying not to take up too much staff time.”

Insufficient staff has been a problem that has plagued the city since its incorporation and, according to Assistant City Manager Luci Romero Serlet, Goleta is still having problems recruiting qualified employees. Regarding staffing the planning department, where applicants have faced significant delays, “Not all of the people that are qualified to be planners find this kind of assignment something they want to get into,” said Serlet. “And contracting isn’t always a suitable option.”

Inadequate staffing was one of the reasons given for the moratorium on approvals of certain development proposals. The moratorium was one of the first actions taken by the council when the city incorporated in February 2002. However, on Monday the council voted unanimously to let the moratorium expire on Feb. 13. “We have accomplished a great deal with this moratorium and it’s time to move on,” said Mayor Cynthia Brock.

Originally published in South Coast Beacon on January 29, 2004.

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