Westmont Magazine Final Hearings on Master Plans
Continued Community Support Needed
Westmont officials are making slow and steady progress in their plans to improve and modernize the picturesque Montecito campus. A series of meetings is underway to consider the Campus Master Plan Update, a process that has taken over a decade at a cost of more than $2 million to the college.
Montecito’s planning commission and board of architectural review will hear debate about the updated project during several hearings this spring. The college expects an appeal of the planning commission’s decision to the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors by next summer.
Westmont hopes to add classrooms, laboratories, offices, student life facilities and residence halls, most of which were approved decades ago but have not yet been constructed. The shortage of modern academic buildings and residence halls makes it more difficult for Westmont to attract the best and brightest students.
In 2002, the county determined that an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the updated plan wasn’t necessary. But Westmont requested that one be prepared anyway to ensure that every possible concern was addressed.
Five years of study and three rounds of environmental review have confirmed that the update will not have any significant environmental impacts. In fact, the most recent environmental review concludes that the plan will provide environmental benefits. In addition to planning new facilities, the latest update will enhance campus biological resources, reduce fire hazards, upgrade emergency access and improve traffic circulation and parking.
In response to community concerns, the college has agreed to reposition several buildings, including the chapel/auditorium, which will now be set apart south of the pine grove below the dining commons.
The update will leave more than 80 percent of the campus in landscape and open space. That equals more than 90 acres of the 111-acre campus. Westmont’s plan calls for no change in enrollment, parking permits or the number of special events on campus.
More than 100 supporters of the college attended a recent hearing on the latest environmental review, and one-third of them spoke on the record, urging planners to expedite the approval process.