The Naples region lies just 2 miles west of Goleta on the Gaviota coast, and is home to a variety of wildlife such as badgers, mountain lions, sea otters and peregrine falcons. It is also home to a farming community that has learned to coexist with nature and its surroundings.

“If you draw the urban limit line to include Naples, where does it stop?” questions Greg Helms, president of the Naples Coalition, an organization formed in 2000 in response to the Naples Project, brought forth by Orange County developer Matt Osgood as a proposal to develop the land into 88 houses north of the 101.

“There is a need on the Gaviota coast for agricultural-support facilities, or we may even need a regional slaughterhouse,” explains Helms of alternative-land developments that will promote the sustainability of agriculture that has existed in the region for many generations.

Osgood’s proposal, which has been reduced to 72 homes and is now referred to as the Santa Barbara Ranch Development, is far from Helms’ vision for the region. The “Naples Town Site” would span some 800 acres and could include houses larger than 13,000 square feet, an equestrian center and coastal access trails. “The mansionization of the Gaviota coast is the quickest way I can think of to destroy the viability of agriculture,” assures Helms. It could also put a strain on the local water supply and lead to water runoff contamination.

He goes on to add that the result of the project would “substitute mansions for rural homes, landscaping for native grasses and orchards, and fences for wide-open spaces, all for the benefit of a private developer and 72 families.”

Helms also believes that there are very few Goletans who are in favor of the project, as he has witnessed standing-room-only crowds at various hearings positioning themselves against the developer in favor of preserving the land. “There’s an economic value in open space,” confirms Helms, indicating that the area often attracts visitors who enjoy activities such as surfing, hiking and bird watching.

The project has also hit a financial roadblock, as it was reported back in February of this year that the bank issued a notice of default to the developer for failing to make a $3.1 million payment on a $63 million loan.

Time is running out on the development that is now 10 years old, this latest setback could lead to foreclosure of the property. It has yet to receive approval from the Coastal Commission, and the adequacy of its Environmental Impact Report (EIR) has been challenged in the form of a lawsuit courtesy of the Coalition.

For Helms, it’s a project that just isn’t suitable for the vicinity. “We will take every measure to see that it’s (the development) drastically reduced or eliminated,” and he is certain that his views reflect the best interests of Goleta.