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Santa Barbara - South County

Pristine parcel above Summerland sold; farming wins over development

SUMMERLAND, Calif. - It appears a second pristine parcel in Santa Barbara County has been saved from potential development, in as many months.

The latest site encompasses nearly seven acres above the town of Summerland, owned by the Carpinteria Unified School District.

All parties involved have confirmed the deal to NewsChannel 3. Final details are pending and in the works.

Environmental Attorney, Marc Chytilo, said the Santa Barbara Agriculture & Farm Education Foundation (SBAFE) has successfully offered a bid to purchase the open land off Whitney Avenue and Temple Street.

"This just shows that our community stands to protect open spaces," said Chytilo. "The Summerland Farm is a perfect example of a threatened landscape that needed intervention."

Diana Rigby, Superintendent of the Carpinteria Unified School District (CUSD), confirmed that the CUSD Board voted August 24 to accept the cash offer. Rigby said the agreed upon price tag was $2.25 million, well above the original listing price of $1.325 million. Escrow is slated to close in November.

"I am pleased that CUSD was able to sell the Whitney property for above market value to assure funding for the rebuild of a new, beautiful Summerland School," said Rigby.

Summerland Farm off Whitney Avenue in Summerland (Beth Farnsworth/KEYT)

"The Santa Barbara Agriculture and Farm Education Foundation was able to submit a bid in advance of a public sale and were able to convince the school district that our proposal was appropriate, it was going to meet the needs of the district, and provide for the permanent protection of these lands," said Chytilo. "Together, that package was sufficient for the school district board to agree to move ahead with the foundation and protect these lands forever."

Leslie Person Ryan, who is President of SBAFE, has leased the land from the district for more than a year and championed hard to keep the parcel from being developed. She said the goal is to build out the organic, pesticide-free farm, which is both wet and dry, and continue helping feed those in need.

"School district says it's a win-win. We believe it's a win-win for Summerland School, rebuilding our school and having kids up here as well. They're excited as we are to educate the next generation of farmers," said Person Ryan.

Person Ryan, who also runs the Sweet Wheel farm cart on Lillie Avenue, has a farming partner in Orcutt. She has said numerous times over the past months that Summerland is a certified "food desert" -- especially in times of disaster.

All parties involved appear pleased with the final outcome.

The land sat as a nest egg for the District, for years. Terms of the sale were highly restrictive. The money raised will go towards rebuilding Summerland Elementary at another site.

In the meantime, Person Ryan and those involved with SBAFE are working to expand several programs that are in place to help educate the community and local children about farming.

The deal comes two months after local residents and environmentalists worked to successfully buy back land in and around the San Marcos Foothills Preserve, slated for approved housing development.

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Beth Farnsworth

Beth Farnsworth is the evening anchor for KEYT NewsChannel 3. To learn more about Beth, click here

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