SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — Environmental groups gathered Monday to rally against a development planned next to the San Marcos Preserve in the Santa Barbara foothills. The group wants to buy back land that's already been approved for new homes.
Developers at the Chadmar Group said they've already donated 90 percent of their land that created the preserve and hiking trails. Opponents have a series of lawsuits planned to stop any further progress.
The conflict goes back decades. As NewChannel has reported, in 2005 the Chadmar Group bought 350 acres of foothills land between Santa Barbara and Goleta. And donated 300 of those acres to create the San Marcos Preserve. The current project is expected to be 25 acres.
Chad Lande is the COO for Chadmar Group. He said, "It's a great opportunity. It's the completion of an agreement that was made 15 years ago where a 350 acres parcel of land cut out 314 acres to be preserved in one form or another."
But environmental groups don't want any new development, citing endangered birds, like the White Tail Kites and Burrowing Owls, and burial grounds for the Chumash Nation.
Ernestine Ygnacio-De Soto is a Chumash elder. After the rally she said, "This land is sacred. And it has great meaning. And as I read before you can hear our ancestors' voices, you can feel them underneath our feet."
The environmental groups have eight separate lawsuits planned to prevent any development. The goal is to buy back the land.
Marc Chytilo is an environmental lawyer for Save San Marcos Foothills. He said, "This effort is about this spot. This is a particularly significant spot. It's propionate, it has ecological value, cultural significance, recreational value. There are other places where development is appropriate."
However the developers still want to move forward.
"We're really just completing the original project that was the original agreement," said Lande. "Like I said we donated 90% of the land to be preserved in perpetuity and we're only using 10% as residential."
But the developers are willing to look at a buyout. They estimated the rest of the land between 18 and 19 million dollars. The environmental groups said they've raised 1.3 million dollars.