The county has come up against the “Law of Holes,” Goleta City Councilmember Stuart Kasdin observed, the adage that says, “When you’re in a hole, stop digging.” It’s reasonable to listen to public concerns with the county’s Cannabis Ordinance, Kasdin said: “You fix it. You don’t keep arguing.” On Tuesday afternoon, Goleta voted to join Carpinteria in sending the county a letter demanding changes to the Cannabis Ordinance, which the county wrote largely ignoring the two cities’ requests, many commented at the meeting.
In Goleta’s case, the city wants the county to prohibit cultivation and accessory uses on parcels zoned AG-I (five or more acres). It also wants at least a mile of setback between residential areas and AG-II parcels (40 or more acres). No odor abatement is currently in the county ordinance for AG-II parcels, which is an “unacceptable” outcome as odor was a Class 1, or significant and unavoidable, impact in the Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR), Goleta Planning Director Peter Imhof said.
Further, distribution and other non-agricultural uses on an AG-I parcel were not analyzed in the FEIR, Imhof said, and impacts to visual resources and traffic could result. A number of public speakers added to the list of impacts they feared, including the manager of Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Roberto van Geenen. He said he was “extremely concerned” that the smell of a cannabis grow would affect his guests and his hotel’s reputation. He also worried about the health and well-being of the 700 “ladies and gentlemen” who worked at one of the largest employers in the city.
Kristen Miller with Goleta’s Chamber of Commerce echoed the worry over potential losses of tourism and sales tax, and other speakers predicted losses for property values. Joan Esposito, who lives in Carpinteria right by four miles of cannabis growing along Foothill Road, informed the City Council of her blinding headaches, doctor visits, and inability to have her grandchildren visit because one has asthma. For her pains, she said, she’s been called “all sorts of names” and “our supervisor is not listening to us.”
Paul Kowalski, chair of the county Cannabis Business Council, was the only one to speak in support of the industry. Cannabis was “just a plant,” he said, that generated no smell except during a short harvest season. His was a highly regulated industry and his members were going to extensive efforts to avoid ill effects, he said. And there were no more ill effects from the oxygen emitted by cannabis than there were from strawberries, Kowalski opined.
Councilmember Roger Aceves took issue with the smell denial,
saying that in his 32 years of police work, the plant had a smell, so much so
that an officer could base probable cause for a search on plant smells alone.
Aceves also pressed staff to locate the Goleta-area applicants. There were seven:
747 Glen Annie Road, permitted in 2018
770 Winchester Canyon Road
397 Winchester Canyon Road
1385 South Anderson Lane
5295 Shoreline Drive
1200 Via Regina
12477 Calle Real, Gaviota
Mayor Paula Perotte told the assembly she’d be at the Board of Supervisors on July 9 when the county was to consider amendments to its ordinance. “I want to say [to the supervisors] that this is new to all of us, and we don’t always get it right the first time,” she said. “Goleta didn’t, and we realized the consequences, brought it back to the drawing board, and fixed it. The county has an obligation to do the same.”