Board to consider new requirements for commercial cannabis activities
The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday will discuss amending the current development standards and permit requirements regarding certain commercial cannabis activities.
In July 2019, the board directed staff to have the Planning Commission come up with recommendations or strategies to help mitigate the odor and other impacts of cannabis operations along urban-rural boundaries, as well as conflicts with existing agriculture operations. Following five public hearings, the Planning Commission adopted a resolution and recommended the board amend the County Land Use and Development Code and added the requirement of a conditional use permit for all cultivation and related activities. In addition, the commission recommended the board amend an article of the Coastal Zoning Ordinance to ensure odor abatement plans wouldn’t be detrimental to the health, safety or general welfare of the neighborhood and would be compatible with the surrounding area.
On June 2 and 11, the board considered the recommended actions and directed staff to draft an ordinance to amend the LUDC to change the current cannabis zoning regulations that apply to unincorporated inland areas of the county. The changes include: prohibiting commercial cannabis activities within existing developed rural neighborhoods; requiring a conditional use permit for projects that include proposed cultivation that exceeds 51% of the subject lot area within Agriculture II zones; requiring cannabis cultivation areas to be located at least 50-feet from all lot lines; and requiring processing activities to be located within an enclosed building that uses the best available technology to control cannabis odors, according to the staff report.
The new requirements in the proposed ordinance would apply to all commercial cannabis activities, except for those that are the subject of an issued permit or final approved permit. The exemptions include: applications that have been approved and the appeal period has expired without an appeal; approved on appeal with a final decision made by the county on the permit application by the effective date of the LUDC amendments; or approved and subject to litigation, which if held up in court would be exempt from the amendments. Those not upheld would be subject to the amendments, according to the staff report.
“If a commercial cannabis activity is subject to an issued or final approved permit, then the project would not be subject to the proposed ordinance and would be allowed to be implemented pursuant to the requirements of the permit and the regulations that apply to legal nonconforming uses of land,” the staff report reads.
Prohibiting commercial cannabis activities within existing developed rural neighborhoods would reduce the amount of land subject to commercial cannabis activities by approximately 25,047 acres, or 39 square miles. Currently, there are pending land use entitlement applications for 12 commercial cannabis projects within existing developed rural neighborhoods, all for cultivation and accessory processing activities.
Currently, there are 11 projects that would be affected by an ordinance amendment requiring a conditional use permit for areas that exceed 51% of the subject lot area. The applicants for the proposed projects would have the option of submitting a conditional use permit application for the proposed projects or revising the proposed projects so the cultivation areas don’t exceed 51% of the lot. The total number of cannabis cultivations with the 10 proposed projects is approximately 233 acres. If each applicant reduced the proposed area, it would result in the reduction of approximately 73 acres of proposed cultivation area, according to the staff report.
The staff report states there are 48 proposed projects that include at least a portion of cultivation within 50 feet of property lines that would be affected by the ordinance amendment. The applicants would be required to revise the project descriptions and remove proposed areas within the 50-foot setback to comply with the new requirements.
The proposed odor requirements are aimed at controlling cannabis odors generated during processing. Some operators have proposed using freeze drying techniques or equipment and immediately packaging harvested cannabis to control odors. The proposed ordinance would require the drying, curing or trimming to occur within an enclosed structure equipped with the best available control technology, or including equipment “that shall achieve an equivalent or greater level of odor control” as those within enclosed structures.
Currently, there are four proposed project applications that include outdoor processing and would be affected by this specific ordinance amendment. Applicants for these proposed projects would be required to revise the proposed project descriptions such that they include either one of the two options to control cannabis processing odors, according to the staff report.
Also on Tuesday, the board will receive a COVID-19 update and the county’s response and operations.
In other business, the board will consider the county’s Planning and Development Departments recommendation to deny an application for a land use permit from Santa Rita Valley Ag., Inc. to allow cannabis cultivation.
Tuesday’s meeting, scheduled to begin at 9 a.m., will be televised on local cable channel 20, as well as online at www.countyofsb.org/ceo/csbtv/livestream.sbc. The meeting will also be streamed on YouTube, at www.youtube.com/user/CSBTV20.
Those who wish to participate can contact firstname.lastname@example.org prior to the meeting, or call 805-568-2240.