A less-than-full-house on the dais Wednesday prompted the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission to postpone a review of proposed land-use and zoning ordinances for the cannabis industry, but the three commissioners present heard public comment on the issue and directed staff to bring back more information.
Vice Chairman Dan Blough said because of the flooding and mud flows in Montecito, Chairman C. Michael Cooney had planned to join the meeting in Santa Maria via video remote from the Santa Barbara hearing room.
“But he can’t even get out of his house,” Blough said.
In addition, John Parke’s appointment as 3rd District commissioner was not ratified Tuesday by the Board of Supervisors because it was added to the agenda too late, so Parke could not be seated for Wednesday’s meeting.
That left only three commissioners to consider the cannabis land-use and zoning ordinances and formulate a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors, which Blough said was too important to be done by less than a full commission.
So the issue is now scheduled to be considered at a special meeting set for 9 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 24, in the Planning Commission Hearing Room of the County Engineering Building at 123 E. Anapamu St. in Santa Barbara.
Supervising Planner Mindy Fogg said in addition to the cannabis land-use and zoning ordinances, the commission will consider a related item at that meeting — rescinding the ordinances the county currently has in place that essentially ban medical marijuana dispensaries and all recreational cannabis activities.
“It’s pretty much a formality,” Fogg said.
Partly based on public testimony provided Wednesday plus their own review of the proposed ordinances, planning commissioners asked the staff to present additional information at the Jan. 24 hearing.
Second District Commissioner Cecilia Brown asked the staff to provide the number of growers separated by whether they are in Ag I or Ag II zoning, which district they are in, what size their parcels are and what type of cannabis they are growing.
She also asked staff to explain the distinctions between greenhouses and hoophouses with relation to how they are regulated, what’s involved in volatile manufacturing and how it differs from nonvolatile manufacturing, and the exact process that will take place after someone applies for a license.
Fourth District Supervisor Larry Ferini said he was interested in how the county could implement Alternative 3, which was considered in the cannabis environmental impact report but rejected because it didn’t meet the project goals.
“I did review it a couple of days ago, and it does make sense to me,” Ferini said.
Alternative 3 would limit the number of cannabis licenses issued by the county to half the number that was indicated on the 2017 Cannabis Registry, which would result in a total of 962 licenses being issued rather than the 1,924 identified by the registry.
Ferini also wants to know about the possibility of phasing licenses and how many of those who initially signed up on the registry are still active “just to look at what the impact is.”
“Are they for real?” he asked. “When the fuse is lit, what’s going to happen? I don’t see that we’re going to be able to do this (all) in one year.”
Blough said the county should have a standard process for issuing licenses, which he said cold take some time to develop, so that every little project won’t have to come to the commission for approval but can be authorized at the staff level.
He also said the county should be able to conduct inspections of cannabis operations without notice, which he said could be included as a condition of the license or permit.
But Blough also indicated he would not approve any outdoor growing.
“I am almost thoroughly convinced I’m not going to send anything to the board (of supervisors) where cannabis is allowed to be grown anywhere but in a sequestered operation with odor control,” he said, adding no odor should be allowed to escape the borders of a property.
He noted there are “sniffers” that can detect cannabis odor, although he admitted they aren’t cheap at about $2,000 each, but they could be used at a property line to determine if odor is escaping, and he wouldn’t make any exceptions for the size of a grow.
“I can’t see if you do 10 acres or 20 acres, it doesn’t matter,” he said. “Odor is odor.”