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An appeal of the retail shopping center approved for the southeast corner of East Clark Avenue and Highway 101 in Orcutt will be heard by the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors when it meets Tuesday in Santa Maria.

Supervisors also are scheduled to receive the annual five-year fiscal forecast and will consider a proposed renewable energy upgrade for county buildings at the Betteravia Government Center in Santa Maria.

On Aug. 14, the County Planning Commission approved construction of the Orcutt Gateway Retail Commercial Center on a 5.95-acre portion of property identified in the Orcutt Community Plan as Key Site 2.

The approval cleared the way for the development of a new 49,921-square-foot shopping center that would include a grocery store, gas station and convenience store with an attached car wash, a restaurant with drive-through service and additional retail space.

A new intersection with a four-way traffic light would serve as the primary access to the center, as well as another larger retail commercial project across the street, and the main road into the center also would provide access to two mobile home parks located south of the site.

Following the Planning Commission’s approval, an appeal was filed by the attorney for a group calling itself Residents for Orcutt Sensible Growth, challenging the decision on nine points related to traffic and circulation, air quality and safety.

In a report to the Board of Supervisors, the Planning and Development Department staff counters the objections raised by the appellants and recommends supervisors deny the appeal.

Energy upgrades

The energy project supervisors will consider for the Betteravia campus of government offices, which will also include lighting upgrades at a County Fire Department station in Goleta, would provide resiliency during public safety power shutoffs.

It also would pave the way for the county’s move toward an all-electric fleet by providing connections for up to 30 electric vehicle charging stations at the Betteravia facilities.

The nearly $5.5 million project would be funded by a combination of a California Energy Commission loan, a loan with 0% interest through Pacific Gas and Electric Co.'s On-Bill Financing program and the county’s General Fund.

But utility costs saved by the energy produced from solar photovoltaic cells added to the amount the county will receive in rebates are expected to average $378,000 annual for 15 years and result in a positive cash flow, according to a county staff report.

Five-year forecast

Supervisors will hear a five-year financial forecast Tuesday to provide them with a look at some potential issues to consider as they prepare the budget for the 2020-21 fiscal year.

The forecast is generally conservative and takes into account the possibility of a mild recession predicted for 2021 by 75% of economists, according to a county staff report.

Although the report indicates the county will be financially healthy in the 2020-21 fiscal year, shortfalls in funding are expected to increase in the following years.

Fiscal issues the county will keep an eye on could have a fiscal impact as high as $532 million and include legislative and policy changes, conversion to an electric vehicle fleet, a backlog of deferred maintenance projects, technology systems that are aging, renovation and reconfiguration of county offices, and escalating premiums for liability and worker’s compensation insurance.

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County Reporter/Associate Editor

Lee Central Coast Newspapers associate editor Mike Hodgson covers Santa Barbara County government and events and issues in Santa Ynez Valley. Follow him on Twitter @MHodgsonSYVNews.