In 2009 the City of Scotts Valley approved an agreement to preserve and move the Polo Barn structure as part of the Polo Ranch development and the developer, Lennar Homes, agreed to those terms. The idea was that the barn would be used as the centerpiece of a neighborhood park with possible uses as a historical museum, art center or community meeting rooms. Historically-minded residents had been secure in the knowledge that the Polo Barn, one of only three remaining historical structures in the city would be preserved for the enjoyment of future generations. This baffling and sudden turn of events raises several questions concerning government transparency, accountability and community values.
Why is the Polo Barn complex worth saving? The final Environmental Impact Report contains more than twenty specific mitigation measures for the various protected and endangered animal and plant species found on the Polo Ranch property but surprisingly, not one mitigation measure directing Lennar Homes to protect the Polo Barn from trespassers, vandals and the elements.
Over time, the barn has been severely vandalized and stripped. In addition, holes have been cut into the roof and the barn and most doors and window panes have been removed to allow for the “dispersal” of bats who at one time resided in the barn. Various members of the Scotts Valley Historical Society can document numerous calls to council members, city staff and police; however the trespassing and damages continued. The common response to these requests was met with the response that protection of the barn was up to Lennar Homes and no other action could be taken.
According to a report issued in 1988 by Archaeological Resource Management titled “Historical Evaluation of the Hollins Stables Off Highway 17 in the City of Scotts Valley” the Polo Barn complex clearly meets criteria for historical significance based on association with events significant to broad patterns of history, association with significant personalities in the past and possessing distinctive architectural characteristics of type, period or method of construction. What is not so clear are the motives of Lennar Homes in requesting demolition of the Polo Barn in return for a $1 million payment to the city and a small passive park to be built in the development.
Page 6 of the November 20, 2013 staff report on the potential demolition of he Polo Barn states, “WHEREAS, the developer has established that the historic Polo Barn and caretaker’s quarters cannot feasibly and safely be relocated to Parcel D.”
After persistent requests a cost estimate done by a contractor hired by Lennar Homes has been supplied. Nowhere in any public documents are actual independent cost estimates to move the barn or expert opinions as to why the Polo Barn is unsafe.
Scotts Valley has a rich tapestry of history ranging from ancient native-American settlements, a Spanish land grant, pre-1900 pioneering farms, ranches, farms, dairies, vineyards, private estates, Bethany Bible College, “The Barn”, Scotts Valley Cavalcade and numerous road-side attractions like Santa’s Village, the Tree Circus, Lost World, Ye Old Dutch Inn and the Beverly Gardens. Sadly, few remnants of local history remain. On November 13 the city council decided to delay the decision to demolish the Polo Barn until a January 15, 2014 meeting. A decision of such importance to demolish one of our last remaining historical structures deserves time for more public input. Options for the Polo Barn need to be explored analyzed and discussed. What has changed since the 2009 agreement that Lennar Homes should be allowed out of the development agreement to move and partially restore the barn?
Let your city council officials know your opinion. Visit www.scottsvalley.org/council/city_council.htm to call or write an email.
- Debbie Muth of Scotts Valley is a member of the Scotts Valley Planning Commission and the Scotts Valley Historical Society.