A Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors vote this week supported ordinance amendments to implement new development standards and permit requirements regarding certain commercial cannabis activities.
The supervisors voted 4-1 on Tuesday to approve cannabis grows to have a setback from lot lines, conditional use permits (CUP) and require processing activities to be located within an enclosed building that utilizes best available technology to control cannabis odor.
The supervisors took a conceptual vote to see where the members stood on a few of the amendments, but in the end, they voted for the county staff’s recommendations.
The ordinance change includes prohibiting commercial cannabis activities within existing developed rural neighborhoods.
On agricultural lots zoned AG-II, a conditional use permit is required for projects that propose a cultivation area on more than 51 percent of a parcel, according to the ordinance.
Before Tuesday’s adoption of the ordinance, proposed cannabis cultivation in the county that exceeded 51 percent of the lot area required a land use permit for certain projects within the AG-II zone.
The vote also will require cannabis cultivation areas to be located a minimum of 50 feet from the property line.
The amendments discussed Tuesday apply only to the inland area of the unincorporated county, according to county staff.
Third District Supervisor Joan Hartmann cast the lone dissenting vote, saying “it has been a painful lesson that it’s much harder to pare back than it is to loosen things up.”
Hartmann “wanted to focus on one thing” — conditional use permits for cannabis cultivation on more than 51 percent of a parcel.
“Unfortunately, this does nothing in our prime Sta. Rita Hills American Viticultural Area,” Hartmann said.
Of the 19 commercial cannabis projects proposed involving about 720 acres in the area, she said, “not one would involve cultivation of over 51 percent of the parcel, so not one would require a CUP.”
Hartmann said that means “not one would have odor control. The upshot of this is we have more concentrated cannabis cultivation than in Carpinteria, with absolutely no requirements or prospect of requirements for odor control.”
Hartmann urged other supervisors to reconsider the ordinance before making the Santa Ynez Valley and Sta. Rita Hills “a sacrifice area.”
“If we want cannabis cultivation, and we do, we should share the burden like we did with the retail,” she said. “We dispersed it.”
Hartmann also said she received complaints from community members about odor issues.
“I’m getting calls,” Hartmann said. “Did skunks get run over?”
Fifth District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino called the ordinance “a step forward.” He said “it might not be all the way there, but I think it’s a good movement in the right direction.”
More than 30 members of the public submitted speaker slips to comment on the agenda item.
Charlotte Brownlee, who spoke on behalf of Carpinteria’s Cate School, said school leaders’ primary goals have been to eliminate nuisance odor, reduce the density of grow operations near the campus, and “have the law enforced for the safety and well-being of the students in our care.”
Brownlee, an administrator at Cate School, asked for some change to the ordinance, including clarifying it to prohibit odor beyond the property lines of a parcel where commercial cannabis is grown and declare the odor a nuisance, among other suggestions.
“We hope you will make some practical and reasonable accommodations to the ordinance in the name of student health and well-being,” Brownlee said.
Joe Armendariz, government affairs director with Natural Healing Center, spoke of the Grover Beach cannabis dispensary company’s farms in Tepusquet Canyon in the county, “which are deemed legal, nonconforming and subject to CUPs.”
Armendariz spoke directly after Brownlee, and he acknowledged “where there are impacts in the county — up in Tepusquet Canyon, those impacts simply do not occur or exist.”
“If ever there were a place for cannabis cultivation to thrive, far from any and all sensitive receptors, it is up in Tepusquet mountains, where cultivation has been occurring without impact to neighbors for over 20 years,” he said. “We utilize best management practices with the latest technology while making sure that our cultivation methods are environmentally sustainable.”
Stacy Wooten, founder of Cal Coast Compliance, said, “Tepusquet is a public road, and many travel that road for business and pleasure, so I just want to remind everybody that not all who travel Tepusquet Road are part of the commercial cannabis cultivation project site.”
After the vote, Second District Supervisor Gregg Hart said the supervisors made progress.
“I understand the public has very strong opinions about this, and they are diverse and different and hard to reconcile,” he said. “This is extraordinarily difficult for us to navigate … and improve the ordinance and improve the situation in communities.”