Carpinteria Foothills Protected

September 20, 2005
Press release

The Land Trust for Santa Barbara County, Rancho Monte Alegre Partners, and The Trust for Public Land announced today that on June 30, 2005, over three thousand acres of land in the foothills of Carpinteria, CA was placed in a permanent conservation easement, the largest in Santa Barbara County, to be held by The Land Trust for Santa Barbara County.

In an agreement negotiated between the Land Trust and the private owners of Rancho Monte Alegre, represented by Tad Buchanan of RMA Partners VI, most of the 3,100 acre historic Carpinteria ranch property is restricted to agricultural use (290 acres) and protected natural open space (2,770 acres). These 3,060 acres are permanently set aside and restricted from residential, commercial and industrial development.

RMA Partners approached The Trust for Public Land in 2004, a national land conservation organization, to help craft a conservation strategy to maximize protection of the ranches tremendous natural and agricultural resources and provide trail access long sought by the community. The Land Trust, TPL and RMA Partners, co-sponsored a public workshop about the proposal on February 9, 2005.

Rancho Monte Alegre is the largest undeveloped property from Goleta to Carpinteria. The headwaters and over four miles of Santa Monica Creek run through the ranch, continuing through town to the Carpinteria Marsh.

"These owners offered a lot of land for preservation, plus public hiking trails the community really wants. They also want to build some very large homes on part of the ranch. On balance, I think there are real and guaranteed benefits to the community," notes Carpinteria resident and Land Trust board member Vera Bensen.

The conservation easement granted to The Land Trust for Santa Barbara County, permanently extinguished development rights on the property except for the agreed upon 25 home sites and permitted agricultural uses. Land under conservation easement remains in private ownership. The Land Trust will monitor the property and has independent legal authority to enforce the easement on all future landowners.

Outside of the 40 acres reserved for home sites and access roads, most of the land on Rancho Monte Alegre protected open land overseen by the Land Trust. The conservation easement maps 2,770 acres of watershed and wildlife habitat, including chaparral and coastal sage scrub communities, and oak woodland and riparian forest along Santa Monica Creek. On portions of the ranch historically used for farming and ranching, the conservation easement establishes 290 acres where agricultural use is permitted. Since the late 1900s, the land has been used for agriculture - cultivation of olives, avocados, citrus, loquats, figs and apples, as well as dairy farming.

Ultimately, there will be 25 separate owners on Rancho Monte Alegre," says Michael Feeney, Land Trust Executive Director. "That means we'll need to be diligent in working with them and their homeowners association to make sure everyone abides by the easement and to promote good stewardship."

The Land Trust will be working closely with RMA Partners and county officials on plans for the trails, and for brush clearing for fire protection, within the conservation area.

"Because the ranch was already subdivided into many land parcels, the owners could have pursued development on each of those parcels, or even tried to subdivided it further. Rancho Monte Algre provides a great example of how private landowners can work with conservation groups for the benefit of the entire community," notes Debra Geiler, Central Coast Program Director for The Trust for Public Land.

Tad Buchanan, manager of RMA Partners, comments, "It was a very positive experience working with the Land Trust for Santa Barbara County, The Trust for Public Land and the county staff on drafting the conservation easement. Together, we crafted an agreement which preserved over 3,000 acres of land at no cost to the public. I hope this agreement becomes a model which will be replicated on other large ranch properties."

Under county agricultural zoning, each legal parcel can have at least one home built on it, if it meets the basic requirements of getting a building permit. RMA Partners has retained the right to develop 25 home sites on the ranch, while giving up forever all development rights beyond the retained home sites. The conservation easement creates development envelopes for the residences located to minimize their visibility from Carpinteria. Fourteen homes are limited to single story construction.

Separate from the conservation easement transaction, RMA Partners is negotiating with the County of Santa Barbara on the donation of two major public trail easements. One trail easement will allow opening of the historic Franklin Trail for public use, while the second will create an east-west trail route that could connect to existing or future trails in the surrounding Los Padres National Forest.

The Land Trust for Santa Barbara County works to conserve and enhance our county's natural open land and agricultural heritage for the benefit of present and future generations. Founded in 1985, LTSBC has negotiated voluntary conservation transactions with landowners that have protected over 17,400 of ranch, farm, wildlife habitat and community open space land. For more information visit www.sblandtrust.org.