The Solvang City Council on Monday voted to uphold a recommendation to limit the hours of operation on various businesses in the city from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m., with several exemptions.

At the recommendation of the Planning Commission, the proposed limit would exempt hotels, service stations, ATM’s and businesses that have an ABC license. It would also exempt businesses in the commercial zone and those involved with “Fire, Life and Safety,” like the hospital.

The approval of other exemptions would be up to the Planning Commission.

The idea was brought up last fall, when community members raised concerns about the impacts of a potential 24-hour business, citing excessive noise, lighting and crime as possible problems.

At the Jan. 14 city council meeting, councilors asked for the ordinance to be reviewed by the Planning Commission.

The commission recommended more stringent operating hours, asking that certain businesses close at 10 p.m. rather than midnight as it had originally been drafted.

City Attorney Dave Fleishman said the commission’s recommendations would need to be added to the current drafted ordinance before it’s brought before City Council for a first read.

During public comment, The Merkantile shopping center owner Josh Richman said he was there because he believed the genesis of the ordinance was related to putting a CVS pharmacy adjacent to New Frontiers Natural Marketplace.

“Our shopping center has been there for 38 years, this issue has never come up before,” Richman said.

He said the ordinance doesn’t address a current or known problem.

“As drafted it contains exemptions and exceptions that will end up swallowing the rule,” Richman said.

Charles Werner, with the Solvang Chamber of Commerce, was also opposed to the restrictions.

He said putting more regulations on the city would leave Solvang at a disadvantage.

“In general we’re opposed to any regulation that makes it harder to attract new businesses to the city,” Werner said.

He said the chamber was also concerned about the impact on bakeries, cleaning companies and cab drivers that often work within the proposed restricted hours.

Councilor Daniel Johnson asked how many 24-hour stores the city currently has.

Fleishman said the only place he knew of was the gas station, which isn’t staffed late at night.

“Are we trying to create a regulation that is just having another regulation that no one is going to even use. Is CVS planning to be open 24 hours?” Johnson asked.

“I’m trying to not make this about CVS in particular,” councilor Karen Waite said.

Mayor Ryan Toussaint likened it to the city’s ordinance that bans big-box stores, which helped maintain Solvang’s unique, boutique style.

“When you’re setting policy it’s not just about reacting, it’s about being proactive and it’s guiding the city in the direction that you want it to go. If there’s something that you don’t want then you want to make sure you address it before it becomes a problem, that’s probably a better way of doing it,” Toussaint said.

Councilor Chris Djernaes also questioned why the regulation was needed.

“No one has expressed a reason, at least that I can understand, that says ‘we have a serious problem we need to deal with,’” Djernaes said.

Waite said she wanted to follow the commission’s recommendations.

“I can understand certain businesses wanting to, like a CVS or a Rite Aid, wanting to have a 24-hour availability for pharmacy. My concern is we have limited area and the zoning for the 24-hour, maybe that’s not the best place for a 24-hour business because its so close to a residential neighborhood,” Waite said.

Waite made a motion to accept the commission’s recommendations. Councilor Robert Clarke seconded.

The motion passed with Johnson as the sole dissenting vote.


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