Supervisors lobby meeting

Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors Chairman Steve Lavagnino, center, explains the rules of the meeting Tuesday after a power outage forced the board to move from the hearing room to the lobby at the Joseph Centeno Administration Building in Santa Maria.

A loss of power late Tuesday afternoon at the Joseph Centeno Administration Building in Santa Maria left the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors in the dark while taking public comment on potential changes to the cannabis permitting and licensing process.

The power outage led the board to agree to a one-week delay in discussing possible amendments to improve the effectiveness of the county’s cannabis regulation system and address unforeseen issues that cropped up after the ordinances were adopted.

Electric service was lost at 6 p.m. when an SUV struck a utility pole at the intersection of West Betteravia Road and South Thornburg Street, leaving about 2,300 customers without power, said Pacific Gas and Electric Co. spokesman Mark Mesesan.

“It was a pretty significant outage,” Mesesan said. “It required the replacement of a pole, a significant stretch of conducting wire and additional equipment.”

He said power was restored to 350 customers by 8 p.m., another 1,800 by 8:15 p.m. and remainder by 4:30 a.m. Wednesday.

The Board of Supervisors had already spent several hours hearing from more than 100 members of the public about amendments to the cannabis land use ordinances, which led to a ban on cultivation on smaller agricultural lots and a change in the permits required.

When the power went out, supervisors were about halfway through hearing from the public on the other possible amendments, including a cultivation cap, odor control, concurrent processing of permit and license applications and creating a list of eligible operators for the Carpinteria area.

After about 15 minutes waiting for the power to return, supervisors and staff moved the meeting out of the hearing room into the lobby, where daylight coming through a wall of windows still illuminated the room.

Supervisors finished hearing from the remaining 30 or so citizens who had signed up to speak but decided not to discuss the proposed changes.

“After public comment via Facebook Live, they postponed deliberation to next week,” said Gina DePinto, the county’s communications manager. “We were losing light and the power was not back on, so [the board decided] better to postpone and pick this up next week.”

One potential change involved placing a cap on cannabis cultivation operations countywide, either by capping the number of operations, capping the number of acres cultivated or a combination of the two.

Public complaints about odor from cultivation sites prompted the staff to suggest two changes that would put odor-control systems into operation sooner.

Indoor and mixed-light cultivators aren’t required to operate odor-control systems until they receive their business licenses, which can’t be processed until after a use permit is approved.

Currently, it takes three to 10 months to get a permit approved, and if appeals are filed, it could add another three to six months — more if the appeal goes to the Coastal Commission.

Business licenses might not go into effect until several weeks after the appeals are settled. In the meantime, cultivators with state provisional licenses can continue to operate without odor control.

The proposed amendment would require applicants to demonstrate the effectiveness of their odor-control systems during the business license processing.

A related amendment would allow a business license to be processed at the same time as the use permit if the operator can show a permit application has been accepted for processing by the Planning and Development Department.


News Editor

Mike Hodgson is news editor at the Santa Ynez Valley News, where he writes about local government, special events and the people who live in the Valley. He has been a photographer, writer, news editor and managing editor at weekly newspapers since 1972

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