Superior Court Judge Thomas Anderle reaffirmed the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors’ 5-0 vote in February 2007 approving Westmont’s Master Plan. After a hearing in December, the Santa Barbara County judge denied a petition by opponents who filed a lawsuit against the county and Westmont in March 2007.
“It’s extremely gratifying to see Judge Anderle ratify the diligent work done by the County Board of Supervisors, Montecito Planning Commission and county staff,” President Gayle Beebe said following the hearing. “I am also very proud of our team for the way they went above and beyond the call of duty to make sure this was the best plan for the college, our neighbors and the entire community.”
In summary, Judge Anderle ruled that the analysis in the environmental impact report for Westmont’s Master Plan was exhaustive and supported by substantial evidence. He also stated that the county properly found the project consistent with the Montecito Community Plan.
The detailed, 50-page decision stated that the updated Master Plan “will not result in Westmont building skyscrapers or in any way abandoning the largely rural nature of its campus” and “the proposed project, much of which will not be visible from outside the campus, is geared toward providing an exceptional liberal arts educa-tion to those 1,200 (students).”
“After a positive recommendation by the Montecito Board of Architectural Review, a positive unanimous vote by the Montecito Planning Commission, two favorable unanimous votes by the County Board of Supervisors, and a strong and clear ruling by the court, it is time to move on,” Executive Vice President Cliff Lundberg said following the hearing. “Both the lengthy permitting process and the judicial process have confirmed the value and legitimacy of the updated Master Plan.”
Westmont submitted an update to its previously approved Master Plan seven years ago, which underwent an extensive environmental review and public hearing process. Under this plan, the college intends to build a new observatory, a residence hall, Adams Center for the Visual Arts, the Winter Hall for Science and Mathematics, and a chapel in Phase I of construction as well as additional buildings in the future.
In May 2006, the college redesigned the project to incorporate guidance from the Montecito Board of Architectural Review and the Montecito Planning Commission, reducing total construction by more than 20,000 square feet, moving buildings away from the perimeter of the campus, and preserving 90 acres of the campus as landscaping or open space. The county imposed many new conditions as part of its approval of the updated Master Plan, and the college has agreed to operate under a revised conditional use permit (C.U.P.) with 116 conditions, as compared to 31 under the prior C.U.P.
In December, college officials presented conceptual designs for buildings in Phase I to the Montecito Board of Architectural Review. Plans for the Adams Center highlight the college’s use of landscaped roofs and the redesigned project’s imperative for blending buildings into the surrounding environment.
Opponents have filed an appeal to Judge Anderle’s decision, but Westmont continues plans to break ground in October.