Montecito Sanitary District Latest

By Kelly Mahan Herrick   |   July 30, 2020
The proposed Essential Services Building on the Montecito Sanitary District campus on Channel Drive

The project being proposed at the Montecito Sanitary District campus was also at MBAR last week, for further conceptual review of a new Essential Services Building and associated improvements.

Architect Brian Cearnal outlined the project, which includes a new 5,000-sq-ft Essential Services building with a new 17-space parking lot, lighting and landscaping, multiple solar canopies, and a new recycled water treatment system, including a 6-foot high, 185-ft long retaining wall to create a pad, a 60,000 gallon feed water tank, a 1,500-sq-ft water treatment enclosure, a 130,000 gallon recycled water storage tank and a 200-sq-ft pump station, as well as demolition of the existing office building, existing solar canopies, and adjacent parking lot. The proposed project would also validate all existing structures on the parcel.

The project is part of the District’s 2004 master plan, which also included a new maintenance building and laboratory, which have already been built. The new building will replace the existing Essential Services building, which is considered undersized and has issues including mold, termites, asbestos, inadequate insulation, non-compliance with ADA requirements, and a leaking roof. The new building will be built on a different portion of the 6.3-acre campus, in order to abandon the access on Monte Cristo Lane and allow access on Channel Drive. It is estimated the project will cost over $4 million.

The project layout on the site allows for 36,000 square feet of space to be utilized for a future water recycling facility, which is also in the works. Preliminary plans for the recycling facility include servicing the Santa Barbara Cemetery, with plans for servicing local golf courses planned for the future. Final design and development plans for a recycled water facility have yet to be finalized. Montecito Water District General Manager Nick Turner, in a letter to MBAR, said MWD continues to collaborate with MSD on a recycled water facility, but that both Districts currently disagree on several aspects of the project’s proposed design and operation.

MBAR received many letters in opposition to the project, which has been controversial since its inception. Bob Short, in a letter to MBAR, lamented that in order to pay for the new building, the District began a series of rate increases that makes sanitary service in Montecito more costly than most other locations in California. “We believe our rate payments could be better used to re-line existing older sewer mains, extending sewer mains to reduce septic tank use, enter into a major recycling program with the Montecito Water District, or even enact a rate reduction,” he wrote.

Other letters suggest repurposing and remodeling the existing building to meet operational needs. Current MSD board member Woody Barrett, speaking as a rate payer, spoke in opposition to the project, saying that it should not be rushed. “There are numerous things about the project that have not been looked at in great detail. It’s a fairly large site in the Coastal Commission area… I just don’t think that everything that needs to be addressed, has been addressed,” he said.

Members of MBAR commented that their purview does not extend past architectural and landscape design. “I want to make sure the Planning Commission receives all of these letters in their packet when the project goes to them,” said MBAR member Claire Gottsdanker. The comments from MBAR were mostly positive, with board members appreciating the Spanish Colonial Revival style of the new building, and the additional screening that has been added along Channel Drive. Story poles were up on the site earlier this month. Several MBAR members did ask project designers to consider a walkway or sidewalk in front of the property, to increase pedestrian safety in the area.

The Board decided to grant conceptual review of the project, sending it on to the Montecito Planning Commission for approval.


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