Santa Maria - North County

Cannabis growers in Santa Barbara County to face more hurdles during application process

Cannabis growers in Santa Barbara County to face more hurdles during application process

SANTA MARIA, Calif. - Cannabis growers in Santa Barbara County will face more hurdles as the Board of Supervisors is moving forward with an ordinance that is expected to prolong the application process. 

The ordinance bans marijuana grows on properties in Agricultural Zone 1 that are 20 acres or less in size.

“There are 171 applications that are currently in the inland area, and we've seen eight permits issued," said Lisa Plowman, Director of Planning and Development.

Ag 1 zoning is closer to urban areas.

"The smaller, agricultural 1 zoned properties, can be adjacent to residential areas," said Plowman.

Applicants will need a conditional use permit for cultivation sites on properties greater than 20 acres.

“It'll lengthen the permit process for people who now have to get conditional use permits, because now they have to go to a hearing," said Plowman.

Growers will request conditional use permits through the Planning Commission rather than staff, meaning the permit requirement has been elevated to a higher decision maker.

Although this option was the least restrictive of three on the table, growers were unhappy.

"We feel confident that the county has developed good policy, so we're a little concerned to have the ordinance reopened up at this time when it hasn't really been allowed to take full effect," said John de Friel, CEO at Central Coast Agriculture in Santa Ynez. 

Fifth District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino cast the sole dissenting vote on the measure, saying the cannabis industry benefits the local economy. 

"We owe $400 million in deferred maintenance backlog; suffice to say this county is in critical need for revenue. But every time revenue-generating projects come before this Board, people pack our meeting rooms and pressure my colleagues to reject these projects," he said. 

“We have dozens of jobs, we pay a living wage, we offer health, dental, vision benefits," added De Friel. "There's well over 2,500 jobs directly created by cannabis.”

But during hours of public comment, many called on county leaders to approve more regulations, or ban cultivation altogether.

“I know we voted for cannabis, but we didn't vote for the stench, the respiratory illnesses, the headaches, the watering eyes, and the breathing problems," one resident said. 

“We have about five grows out in [Cebada] Canyon right now, two or three of them are illegal, and we're concerned because we spent a lot of money for those properties. We bought there because we wanted to have tranquil living," another speaker complained. "I just want that, where we live in Cebada Canyon, doesn't end up like Carpinteria.”

“This ordinance is negatively impacting food agriculture," a food grower with farms in South County and in the Santa Ynez Valley said. "The solution is obvious -- cannabis should be grown only in completely enclosed structures, not hoops, not greenhouses with open vents.”

Lompoc Mayor Jenelle Osborne took the mic to defend the pot industry, saying complaints about odor had no place in the discussion.

“Santa Barbara County has various farming and ranching, from cattle to lemon. All of these have had strong odors associated with them at some point during their production," she said. 

Supervisors also discussed a business licensing ordinance, which could further limit cultivation countywide.

Options on the table for that ordinance include capping the number of acres for pot grows, capping the number of cultivation sites, or both. 

No decisions on this were expected on Tuesday.  


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