Goleta Tussles with Venoco

In a continuing conflict over General Plan amendments, the City of Goleta appears to be at odds with Venoco Inc., proprietor of the Ellwood Marine Terminal and petroleum facility, specifically over Goleta’s interpretation of land-use policy and what Venoco says it is entitled to under state and federal law. “They’re trying to change the rules of the game and the rights of the property owner after they’ve already been established,” said Steve Kirby, Venoco counsel. The proposed amendments involve changes to Venoco’s franchise agreement and modification of Goleta’s Coastal Zoning Ordinance to reconcile with the relatively new General Plan. “This is one [General Plan] initiation I can support because there is some information we need,” said Councilmember Margaret Connell, who added the caveat that the language in the initiation should clarify that the process was to be an investigation rather than an implicit approval. Goleta Planning and Environmental Services Director Steve Chase was adamant that under existing land use and coastal ordinances, the Ellwood facility could neither expand nor intensify its current production. “Venoco pumped millions [of dollars] into this facility at a risk, knowing that it was a nonconforming use,” he said, adding that site renovations were allowed only if they did not result in new production. “Get your zoning right-make sure your zoning comports with that of the General Plan,” he said to the council, which voted unanimously to initiate study of the amendments.

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