MERRAG Annual Meeting

By Kelly Mahan Herrick   |   December 19, 2019

MERRAG held its annual meeting at the Four Seasons Resort the Biltmore on Thursday, December 12. 

MERRAG director Sue Ziliotto was named the Volunteer of the Year at MERRAG’s annual meeting last week

President Troy Harris listed the accomplishments of MERRAG over the past year, including the planning and execution of the Raising Our Light Remembrance Event on January 9, staffing information kiosks during the winter storm events from January through March and the fire events during September and October, handling traffic during Montecito’s Village Fourth parade, coordinating a retirement reception for retiring Fire Chief Chip Hickman, and organizing and coordinating the four-day CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) course last month, which was the first ever full training class offered in Montecito.

The following slate of officers were approved by the membership: Troy Harris as president, Keith Yeager as First Vice President, Vicky Harbison as Second Vice President, Tom Schleck as Treasurer, and Sue Ziliotto as Secretary. Directors include Phyllis Marble, Warner Owens, Dave Boyd, Sandy Lin, Sandie Owens, Bill Vollero, and John Ziliotto

Sue Ziliotto was recognized as MERRAG Volunteer of the Year, and MERRAG also recognized and thanked Administrative Assistant Joyce Reed for her liaison work with MERRAG and MFD, and Martha Lozcano for her assistance with the Board. During the meeting, Harris informed attendees of a planned initiative to expand the Montecito radio network to facilitate communication between more neighborhoods and institutions in emergency situations. 

With a 32-year history in Montecito, MERRAG has a long-time record of supporting the community in a variety of instances. To learn more, visit

Montecito Planning Commission in Montecito

It was a successful turnout last Thursday, December 12, when the Montecito Planning Commission held a special meeting at Montecito Union School. The meeting was the first time in the Commission’s 17-year history that they’ve convened in Montecito.

The meeting was a lesson of sorts, an opportunity to educate the community on how Montecito is governed by the County. Planner Tess Harris went over several topics, including the County’s adherence to the Montecito Community Plan, the functions of the County’s Planning & Development department, the MPC’s bylaws, as well as its role, function, and jurisdiction. “I think this is a great vision and desire to bring the Planning Commission and its functions closer to the public. [The MPC] is a key partner with the County Board and with community institutions on rebuilding and further resilience,” said First District Supervisor Das Williams. “Our responsibilities are to implement the Community Plan, and to make informed decisions about the land use questions and issues that come before us,” said Commissioner Susan Keller. “If there is contention or disagreement with our decisions, they can be appealed to the Board of Supervisors.”

The meeting also touched upon rebuilding and resiliency following the 1/9 debris flow. According to Staff, 524 parcels were affected by the debris flow, and 460 owners of those properties have been in contact with the County. There have been 73 applications for planning permits due to the debris flow, 63 applications for “like-for-like” exemptions, 110 applications for building permits, and 182 “counter” permits applied for and issued. Staff reports that 309 parcels have been repaired or rebuilt, with no further action needed at the County.

The meeting was opened up to public comment, with several residents asking about their specific situations regarding rebuilding. One member of the public asked for clarification from the MPC on the role of the Montecito Association in the planning process. “The Montecito Association is an advocacy group that advocates on behalf of the Montecito community. It has no governmental functions at all, but it does have meetings, a Land Use Committee that is open to the public for people to attend, and they do look at projects of concern. If they so choose, they weigh in by either coming before us on a given project, or writing a letter on their point of view on a given project or issue,” said Chair Charles Newman. Land Use Chair Dorinne Lee Johnson also spoke at the meeting, voicing her appreciation for the Commission’s work and her invitation for commissioners to attend the MA’s Land Use meetings, which are held on the first Tuesday of the month at Montecito Hall at 4 pm.

David Villalobos, Support Supervisor for the MPC, said the community can get better involved with the Commission and the County by attending hearings as well as accessing the Planning & Development website which can be found on the County’s website at To receive agendas and projection reports, email David at  


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