The Santa Maria Joint Union High School District is opposing a cannabis cultivation project proposed on a 165-acre parcel east of the district’s Career Technical Education Center and Ag Farm that just opened to students Thursday.
John Davis, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, read a short statement on the district’s opposition Friday outside the CTE Center’s office.
Davis said the district just became aware of the application for a permit to grow 20 acres of cannabis near the CTE Center, although public notice on the grow site’s access road says the application is to grow 38 acres of cannabis.
“District officials and the SMJUHSD school board are opposed to the project,” Davis said. “The district is working with its legal counsel to submit a letter of opposition to the Santa Barbara County Planning and Development Department this week.
“We will have no further comment at this time,” he added.
The public notice says Lisa Bugrova submitted the land use permit application on Feb. 22 for the Juan de Jesus Cisneros Trust outdoor cannabis cultivation operation at 3950 Highway 101.
The grow on the northern portion of the 165-acre property appears to be about 1,000 feet northeast of the CTE Center and about 2,000 feet north of the Elks Unocal Event Center.
Because of the topography, the cultivation site would not be visible from ground level at the CTE Center.
“The department is still reviewing the application,” said Petra Leyva, a Cannabis Permitting and Enforcement Division supervisor. “We have asked [the applicant] for more information, so we’re waiting for that.”
Because the application is for a land use permit rather than a conditional use permit, the project can be approved by the department director and would not be subject to as many conditions.
It would only go before the Planning Commission if the planning director’s decision is appealed. The commission’s decision could then be appealed to the Board of Supervisors.
High school district officials are concerned about the cannabis cultivation project’s proximity to the CTE Center that hosts up to 500 students plus staff every weekday on its 25-acre site.
Three times a day, students are bused to the center from Santa Maria, Pioneer Valley, Righetti and Delta high schools for two-hour blocks of hands-on training in agricultural and related technical fields.
The center also provides land for students to grow crops as well as a barn, pens and corrals where Future Farmers of America youths can raise their animals for the Santa Barbara County Fair livestock exhibitions and auctions.
Completed in January at a cost of $26.2 million, the center is also just a stone’s throw from the Elks Unocal Event Center, home of the annual Santa Maria Elks Rodeo, and the nearby Santa Maria BMX Track, The Shack Paintball Field and the Tri Valley RC Modelers flight center at Elks Field.