The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors is expected to deny an appeal filed against Castlerock Family Farms’ land-use permit application for cultivating 23 acres of cannabis in the Santa Ynez Valley.
According to the board letter for today’s Board of Supervisors meeting, county staff recommends the appeal filed by the Santa Barbara County Coalition for Responsible Cannabis be rejected on grounds that none of the issues it raises are of merit.
One issue mentioned in the appeal is that Castlerock Family Farms’ cannabis cultivation project allegedly violates the California Environmental Quality Act.
County staff responded that a program environmental impact report (PEIR) for the project was conducted in accordance with CEQA and that therefore, no additional environmental review is needed.
Also alleged is that the board’s amending of the Uniform Rules in 2018 changed cannabis cultivation’s classification under the Williamson Act from “principle use” to “compatible use,” thereby removing oversight from the Agricultural Preserve Advisory Committee.
The coalition asserted that this removed a mechanism for considering how a cannabis cultivation project’s odor would impact nearby wine tasting rooms.
Staff countered this claim and said the APAC reviewed the proposed project and on June 21, 2019, found that it was consistent with the Uniform Rules and therefore fully compliant with the Williamson Act.
The coalition alleged that the PEIR conducted for the project didn’t take into account the previously unknown impacts that commercial cannabis growing has on conventional agriculture.
The coalition cited third-party applicators occasionally refusing to apply pesticides to conventional crops like grape and avocado out of fear that they will drift to nearby cannabis crops, on which pesticides are forbidden.
County staff noted that pesticide drift regulations and the requirements that agricultural operators abide by them are the same now as they were when the PEIR was certified. Therefore, there is no new information that would trigger the need for further environmental review regarding pesticides.
The impact of cannabis odors on wine tasting rooms mentioned in the second appeal issue is listed as its very own issue and calls for the project to undergo a more thorough air quality analysis in order to get approved.
In response, staff wrote that the PEIR acknowledged cannabis odors may not be controlled in all instances due to several variables and result in unavoidable Class I impacts in regard to air quality and malodors. It also mentioned that the Board of Supervisors adopted a Statement of Overriding Considerations for those Class 1 impacts.
Also among the factors the Coalition accused the PEIR of not taking into account was the clustering of cannabis projects near the Castlerock project, which lead to cumulative impacts that CEQA didn’t analyze.
Staff responded that the PEIR “assumed and analyzed concentrations of cannabis activities” throughout regions such as the Santa Ynez Valley and found no caps or limitations on the number of allowable projects.
Thus, it argued that the Castlerock project’s proximity to the cannabis projects in the valley is “not new information and was considered in the PEIR.”
In other business, the board will hold a hearing in order to execute a resolution of necessity to acquire a temporary construction easement for a property in the 300 block of Chapala Street.
The property is needed for the Lower Mission Creek Flood Control Project and is owned by Reginald Drew Jr., according to the board letter.
The Lower Mission Creek Flood Control Project is a federal project from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that has been under study and development since the 1960s. It is meant to reduce flood risk in downtown Santa Barbara.
Since a feasibility study was done in 2000, the county and city of Santa Barbara have been completing sections of the project whenever funding is made available.
In order for a section of this project to go forward, the county must acquire the necessary property rights from Mr. Drew.
On Dec. 9, 2019, an eminent domain action called County of Santa Barbara Flood Control and Water Conservation District v. Reginald Drew Jr. was filed in Santa Barbara County Superior Court and is still pending.
However, the calendar term for the temporary construction easement runs from April 1 to Dec. 31, 2020, and will expire before the Flood Control District is able to start construction on the project segment.
Because the Superior Court was previously closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Flood Control District has seen its motion for possession hearing delayed a few times since April.
The hearing is now scheduled for Oct. 27.
Due to the court’s earlier closure, the Flood Control District’s legal counsel sought a voluntary extension of the nine-month temporary construction easement term from Mr. Drew, but the property owner rejected the request.
Because the Flood Control District is required to start and finish the project in a certain, seasonal window of time, and it hasn’t reached an agreement with Mr. Drew, it is required to get a resolution of necessity so the Superior Court can determine and address any issues that arise in litigation.
The Resolution of Necessity has to determine that Flood Control has found that the proposed project is necessary for public interest, that it is planned in a way that will be compatible with the greatest public good and least private injury, that the property in question is necessary for the project, and that the property owner has been given the offer required in Government Code Section 7267.2.
The resolution of necessity requires a four-fifths vote to get passed.
In other business, the Board of Supervisors will receive a COVID-19 update from the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department.