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Santa Barbara County planning commissioner's proposed cannabis overlay wins support
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Santa Barbara County planning commissioner's proposed cannabis overlay wins support

A cannabis overlay concept that would provide incentives for growers to cultivate in areas that would avoid conflicts with residents and vineyards won support Wednesday at the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission meeting.

But the discussion of potential amendments to the ordinances regulating the industry was continued yet again to allow commissioners to consider additional information before making decisions.

Commissioners unanimously voted to continue the hearing at the March 4 meeting, when Barney Melekian, assistant county executive officer in charge of the County Executive Office’s cannabis program, is scheduled to give a briefing on the enforcement program.

That will also be after Dan Klemann, deputy director in charge of the Planning and Development Department’s Long Range Planning Division, presents the commission with his division’s work plan at the Feb. 26 meeting.

Both meetings are scheduled to take place in Santa Barbara, as did Wednesday’s meeting.

Klemann said the commission may want to consider the work plan before directing the staff to take on a major increase in its workload, like splitting off an amendment to address odor problems and making it a priority.

“We [already] have more work than we have staff resources,” Klemann advised the commission.

Planners have been wrangling with potential changes to the county’s cannabis ordinances because the Board of Supervisors last year directed the commission to come up with potential amendments that could solve some of the problems the industry has caused.

Those problems include conflicts with residential areas caused by odor and traffic and with agricultural operations, particularly wine grape growers, over terpene contamination and other growers over pesticide drift.

At last week’s commission meeting, 3rd District Commissioner John Parke suggested creating a cannabis overlay such that any cultivation operations proposed within it would have a much easier path to a land use permit because it would have little if any impacts on residents, vineyards and other crops.

Parke took it upon himself to create a potential overlay, which he delivered Wednesday, although he admitted it was less detailed than he wished.

“The concept is we have a wine industry that’s very upset … ,” Parke explained. “I’m hearing from the wine industry that they can’t sell their grapes if they’re [grown] close to cannabis [cultivation].”

His overlay consisted of four areas — two of which he intended to be a single area.

One he dubbed the Cuyama Segment consisted of most of the Cuyama Valley northeast of Los Padres National Forest to the San Luis Obispo County line, with a few “carve-outs” around Cuyama and New Cuyama field crop areas, and east to the Ventura County line.

Another he called the Cachuma Segment sweeps along the southwest edge of the Los Padres from the east end of the Santa Maria Valley to near Old Man Mountain, staying to the east of the Santa Ynez Valley but encompassing Cachuma Lake, then curving to sweep westward along a narrow band south of Santa Ynez, Solvang and Buellton to Highway 101.

There it butts up against the Jalama Segment — the two intended to be one segment — that expands toward Vandenberg Air Force Base, skirting the Pacific to Point Concepcion, staying south of Lompoc Valley and extending west to near Space Launch Complex 3 East on the base.

The fourth Palmer Segment is a separate Nebraska-shaped area stretching from Highway 135 south of Orcutt eastward to Foxen Canyon and following a line north of Los Alamos to a point near Cañada Arena.

Parke said he realized such an overlay would take a General Plan amendment, which would be a lot of work for staff, but he said spending 100-plus hours on cannabis hearings is also a lot of work.

He asked that staff and the public consider his proposal to see if it’s a good idea and make any recommendations they might have for improving it.

Members of the public who spoke generally supported the idea, provided it directs groves away from people and vineyards, but they also emphasized their desire for the commission deal with the odor problem.

Nancy Emerson of WE Watch in the Santa Ynez Valley noted Buellton is calling for a 1-mile buffer around the city limits.

“I think we need at least half a mile,” she said.

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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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