COMMUNITY GROUP “NEVER!” FORMS TO OPPOSE CONVERSION OF FORMER NEVERLAND RANCH TO “GRACELAND-LIKE” ATTRACTION
SANTA YNEZ, CA, JULY 23, 2009 — With enthusiastic community support, a Santa Ynez Valley community group has been formed with the sole mission of opposing any attempt to convert Michael Jackson’s former Neverland Ranch into a commercial venue or Graceland-like tourist attraction.
WHO: Never! was founded by Santa Ynez Valley residents in response to broad community encouragement, and its mission has already received the support of the following community groups: Buellton Is Our Town, Preservation of Los Olivos (P.O.L.O.), Santa Rosa Road Ag Alliance, Santa Ynez Valley Alliance, and Santa Ynez Valley Concerned Citizens. Residents, farmers, ranchers, and business owners are represented.
WHAT: The mission of Never! is to oppose all attempts, including the creation of a burial site, to convert the beautiful and secluded former Neverland ranch into a commercial venue or Graceland-like tourist attraction.
WHY: The development of a Graceland-like tourist attraction is totally out of character with the remote and rural Santa Ynez Valley. In addition to inadequate roads, none of the essential urban services (fire protection, police services, medical facilities, or gas stations — not even a sewer system) are available within ten miles of the location. Further, the county-wide precedent that would be set by approval of this project would open other large ranches for urban development and put at risk the beauty and rural character for which Santa Barbara County is known and loved.
“Michael Jackson came to the Santa Ynez Valley for the peace and quiet,” said Bob Field, spokesman for Never!, “and when he lost that, he left, never to return. The vast majority of Valley residents live here for the same reason. Ironically, development of a Graceland-like tourist attraction would destroy precisely what Michael loved about the Valley.”
Never! believes that the development of such a facility in a large urban area, such as Las Vegas or Los Angeles, would be a far superior option for the Jackson family and for the millions of Michael Jackson fans. “It could be developed much faster, cost far less, and be available to many times the number of visitors”, said Mr. Field. “Only the multi-billion dollar real estate investment firm that bought this ranch on speculation would significantly benefit from imposing this on the Santa Ynez Valley.”
Never! has asked representatives of this investment firm (Colony Capital, LLC) to put the property back under the protection of the State’s Williamson Act, which offers very significant property tax breaks in return for a ten year commitment to keep the land in agriculture.
While the owners have been non-responsive to date, Mr. Field says he “remains hopeful.”
Struggles over land-use proposals in Santa Barbara County have been known to go on for five to ten years, or longer. “Never! is announcing early in hopes of preempting a conflict,” said Mr. Field, but quoting Winston Churchill he adds: “we will never give in, never, never, never……”