The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors planned to make amendments to cannabis operation and licensing rules Tuesday afternoon.
But irate community members who packed the meeting room were more interested in talking about the odors coming from their pot-growing neighbors.
“I live in Carpinteria. We’ve had enough and we’re mad as hell,” said Laurie Coley-Kolepi, who kicked off the public comment portion of the meeting.
Ms. Coley-Kolepi said she and her 6-year-old daughter have been living with constant nuisances from a cannabis grow right next door to her home on Via Real.
“It is a nightmare. I feel like I’ve been launched into Catch 22 land. It’s the Wild West,” said Ms. Coley-Kolepi, who claimed she could smell the facility from her home, had seen people trespassing on her property and even received strange packages on her doorstep. They were presumably for the grow operators.
Fellow Carpinteria resident Sandy Nargi attended the meeting with a handful of neighbors who were a part of the citizens group Concerned Carpinterians.
“When you’re driving on the 101 from Santa Barbara to Carpinteria, from Padaro Lane, Santa Claus Lane, it’s terrible and it’s been that way for the past year. We thought it was skunks. I thought, how many skunks do we have? Come to find out it’s cannabis,” said Ms. Nargi, who blamed a grow in the area.
Residents from Carpinteria to Santa Maria and the Santa Ynez Valley shared similar stories of unmistakable odors near grow sites.
“My grandson thought it was pepperoni. Little did he know,” said one Santa Ynez wine maker.
Other wine makers testified that the smell from cannabis grows is reaching into tasting rooms as far as four miles away.
“How can we let this continue when the wine industry is based on smell?” one asked.
Third District Supervisor Joan Hartmann proposed imposing odor mitigation requirements on outdoor grows on certain parcels in close proximity to vineyards, but got little support from the rest of the board.
“I think the burden should be on the new industry,” she said, and challenged her fellow board members to tour a vineyard to experience the smell for themselves.
The board, instead, voted to consider relaxing the background check requirements for cannabis operation employees with less than a 20 percent interest in the company.
All cannabis employees in the county currently need an extensive criminal background check conducted by the California Department of Justice.
“I want to make sure they’re not going to let felons into this industry. I understand wanting to give these people the opportunity to find a job, but this isn’t the industry for that” said First District Supervisor Das Williams. He asked county staff to research whether commercial employment background checks would provide sufficient employee screening.
The board also voted not to consider allowing cannabis growers to use electrical generators for power security cameras and lights on their properties, citing pollution and fire hazard concerns.
They also decided to prohibit cannabis cultivation on parcels under 20 acres that are located in the Agricultural I zones.
An amendment to the Santa Barbara County Land Use and Development Code reflecting that decision will be drafted by Planning Commission staff. The Planning Commission will make a recommendation to the board when it is complete.