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Santa Barbara County cannabis amendments hearing draws dozens of complaints

Santa Barbara County cannabis amendments hearing draws dozens of complaints

From the Complete Series - Green Rush in the 805?: Cannabis on the Central Coast - Looking at land use, money, science, law enforcement and education series

A hearing on options for amending cannabis ordinances brought dozens of residents to the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday to complain about the same issues they’ve raised at every hearing for more than a year.

Only a small percentage of the 70 people who signed up to speak addressed the amendment options presented by the staff.

Instead, most called for scrapping all the ordinances and starting over, adopting amendments not included in the options presented, enforcing odor control and light pollution regulations, banning cultivation on all land zoned Agriculture 1 and halting the issuance of all land use permits and business licenses.

Supervisors were accused of selling out, letting cannabis operators “hijack our little Eden” and rolling out the red carpet for a smelly, obnoxious industry the citizens said is lowering property values, making people sick, endangering children, damaging the wine and tourist industries and encouraging armed robberies and trespassing.

A number of speakers advocated capping the size of cultivation operations, putting setbacks and odor abatement requirements for outdoor cultivation on parcels zoned Agriculture 2.

Residents claimed the regulations had been thrown together without public input or considering the opinions of experts and that permits and licenses are being handed out free with no investigation of the statements made by applicants.

Only a handful of the speakers defended the industry, claiming cannabis operators are making efforts to comply with multiple, complicated and expensive state and county requirements to become legal.

One grower representative noted some cultivators have not been able to afford the machinery needed for odor control, and noted the county has one of the strictest odor control ordinances in the state.

Several growers noted they strongly support the odor control regulations, although they said controlling odor on outdoor cultivation is virtually impossible, and most supported the amendments proposed by the staff.

One person, who is an avocado grower as well as a cannabis cultivator, said she could see things from both sides, and much of the issues raised at the meeting were the result of a lack of understanding of the ordinances.

Another industry representative pointed out the process of developing the ordinances went on for two years with multiple discussions at public meetings and considerable public input as well as consultation from experts.

Staff members pointed out the county can’t enforce odor control and other requirements until cannabis operators are fully permitted and licensed.

“As of today, zero operators have gone completely through the process,” pointed out Dennis Bozanich, deputy county executive officer, who with Planning and Development Department Director Dianne Black outlined the optional amendments staff developed at the board’s direction and based on public comments at recent meetings.

The options included allowing testing labs only in existing structures or existing new and existing structures on agriculturally zoned land with a conditional use permit and placing a cap on numbers.

They also included establishing setbacks for mixed-light cultivation, requiring conditional use permits for cultivation on land zoned AG-1 or banning cultivation on AG-1 properties.

One amendment would eliminate the requirement for Live Scan fingerprinting of employees but would continue to require it of owners, supervisors and anyone with a 20-percent or greater interest in an operation.

Another would set a procedure for determining retail storefront locations through a random drawing among pre-qualified applicants for each of the six community plan areas — Orcutt, Los Alamos, Santa Ynez, Eastern Goleta Valley, Isla Vista/Goleta, a combined Summerland and Toro Canyon plus two more countywide for all sites not under a community plan.

Another option would shift the review of applicants energy efficiency plans from the Planning and Development Department staff to the Sustainability Division of the Community Services Department, which already performs similar evaluations.

Other options would make the language authorizing rejection of license renewals consistent between County Code sections or add additional criteria to the codes that would result in rejection.

Lastly, another option would allow generators to be used for security lighting and video surveillance systems.

With numerous public speakers yet to come, 4th District Supervisor Peter Adam had to leave at 5 p.m. but was given time to express his opinions on the amendment options, although they would not constitute a vote.

Adam said he favored no change in the ban on testing labs on agricultural land and favored banning cultivation on parcels zoned AG-1, and he supported no change in the allocation process for retail storefront operations.

He said the energy efficiency plan review was “the kind of overreach we should not engage in” and favored no change, but he agreed with giving the county more authority to reject renewals.

Adam said allowing generators for lighting and video surveillance was “too much micromanagement” and supported no change.

“I’m absolutely certain we’ll hear this again,” he said. “I hope no one has any illusions we’ll sort this out today.”

Once public comment ended, the remainder of the board mostly came to consensus on how to direct staff, deciding to make no change to the ban on testing labs on ag lands, eliminating the need for Live Scan fingerprinting for employees and changing the allocation process for retail storefronts.

They agreed with shifting the energy plan review to the Sustainability Division and giving the county more authority to reject renewals.

The board also agreed to maintain the ban on generators, although Board Chairman and 5th District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino said it appeared they were singling out cannabis, because generators are allowed for other farming operations.

There was less agreement on controlling cannabis on lands zoned AG-1. Third District Supervisor Joan Hartmann wanted to ban cannabis on all parcels with that zoning, but the others balked at that.

In the end, they agreed to ban it on AG-1-5 and AG-1-10 — essentially, parcels of 5 acres and 10 acres or less — but couldn’t agree on whether a ban should include AG-1-20 or less or if cannabis should be allowed on AG-1-20 or more.

Lavagnino wanted to study how many parcels are in AG-1-20 and their locations before reaching a decision.

“You don’t have to decide today,” Black told the board, noting the amendment would have to go through the Planning Commission first. “That’s what the Planning Commission is good at.”

Hartmann also had other amendments she wanted the staff to look at, including increasing the area around cannabis operations where notices would be sent when a land use permit application is submitted.

Black said the usual distance is 300 feet, but for cannabis it had been increased to 1,000 feet. Hartman wanted 2,500 feet plus everyone in an adjacent existing developed rural neighborhood.

But Lavagnino noted that would be eight football fields in every direction, which Black said would equal the entire Carpinteria Valley.

Hartmann also wanted odor control on outdoor cultivation as well as setbacks in AG-2 zones.

“If you go after that, you’re going to have to go after wet cauliflower and stinky broccoli,” Lavagnino said.

Black asked what the purpose of the setback would be.

“If the purpose of the setback is to deal with odors, it’s going to be very, very big,” Black said. “It’s going to be like a mile.”

So Hartmann asked to look at capping the size of outdoor cultivation at 500 acres in AG-2 zones.

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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.

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