Helipad Appeal at Board of Supervisors

By Kelly Mahan Herrick   |   July 2, 2020

Next week, on July 7, the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors will hear from Summerland resident Pat Nesbitt, who is appealing a November 7 decision by the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission to deny a permit for a private helicopter pad on his nearly 20-acre property known as Carpinteria Valley Farms.

Nesbitt, who admitted last September that he’s been landing helicopters on his property for decades without a permit, originally sought permission for a helistop with two landing zones to be used for personal use and emergency services. He revised the project before a Planning Commission hearing in September, removing the proposed pad on the eastern portion of his property and moving the second pad further west, towards the center of his property on a 10-acre field. The permit would limit the personal use of the helistop to a maximum of two times per week between the hours of 7 am and 7 pm (which was originally proposed as 9 pm), and per the staff report, his helicopters will take the ocean route as opposed to the mountain route in order to avoid any potential disturbance to residences along the mountain route. Frequency of use of the pad for emergency services would be on an as-needed basis.

Nesbitt has said publicly that 500-650 helicopters fly over our area every year, and that he believes that adding two flights per week would not disturb the peace and quiet of the surrounding neighborhood, especially given the property’s close proximity to Highway 101. He said any helicopters landing on his property would be required to use a flight path over the ocean, across Summerland beach and the freeway, and onto the property. But neighbors in Carpinteria, Summerland, and Montecito disagree, and have staunchly opposed the permit, submitting over one hundred letters to the Planning Commission for their November hearing. Concerns include the helipad’s close proximity to residential homes, nearby horse and bicycle trails, and a nearby environmentally sensitive habitat. A minority of neighbors have given their blessing, including Mr. Nesbitt’s adjacent neighbor, who said horses are not historically spooked by helicopter noise.

Many residents have surmised that one of the reasons Nesbitt is seeking proper permitting now is that his property is for sale ­– the 43,000-sq-ft home has 11 bedrooms and 22 bathrooms, and is currently listed for $55 million – and having a permitted helistop would be appealing to a new buyer. Nesbitt retorts that he would require the future owner of the property to adhere to the flight path above the ocean, writing it in as a deed restriction; land use attorney Marc Chytilo, who is representing several nearby homeowners, maintains that a deed restriction is unenforceable.

The Santa Barbara County Planning Commission cited several reasons for denial, including inconsistency with the Summerland Community Plan and the Comprehensive Plan due to the loud, percussive nature of noise caused by helicopter take offs and landings. The Commission also noted the noise caused by helicopters would be detrimental to the surrounding neighborhood, adjacent trails, and nearby monarch butterfly roosting habitats.

The Board of Supervisors hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, July 7. Visit www.countyofsb.org/bos for more information.


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