Saturday, December 14, 2019     Volume: 20, Issue: 41
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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on July 17th, 2019, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 20, Issue 20 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 20, Issue 20

After city opposition, LAFCO approves minimal changes to annexation requirements

By Zac Ezzone

After some cities strongly opposed significant changes to the Santa Barbara County Local Agency Formation Commission’s (LAFCO) open space and agricultural land policies, the commission instead opted to pass a less consequential amendment at its July 11 meeting.

LAFCO began reviewing its existing policies last year. In late March 2019, commission staff sent a letter to all cities within the county and to the county itself requesting comments on a few proposed changes. The most significant proposal would have required any land annexed by a city for development to be mitigated with an equal amount of land preserved or funding to pay for any equal amount of land conserved. 

The cities of Lompoc and Santa Maria both expressed a lot of concern regarding the proposed changes in letters they sent LAFCO during the public comment period. In a previous conversation with the Sun, Lompoc City Manager Jim Throop said landowners would most likely pay the mitigation costs, which could deter them from choosing to be annexed into a city. 

Throop said the city hasn’t annexed land and expanded its boundaries since 1999, which has limited the number of new homes built in the city and has led to a severe housing shortage. Additionally, there’s no space in the city to attract new large-scale business developments. 

“This is what I would consider one of the top priorities, if not the top priority … for the city because so much of what we need to do and want to do hinges on our ability to expand our boundaries,” Throop said in a May interview.

After the public comment period closed in May, LAFCO’s ad hoc committee reviewed the input and chose to support a minor change in policy, but not the mitigation requirement. At the meeting, LAFCO commissioner and county Supervisor Joan Hartmann said the committee opted against the mitigation requirement because LAFCO’s existing policies are consistent with state law and already work well.

Instead of the mitigation requirement, the committee recommended adding language that states a city and the county must reach a memorandum of agreement before proposing an annexation. LAFCO Executive Officer Paul Hood said this is already an existing policy in the state law that created LAFCO and that adding this language will only state this policy more explicitly.

At the meeting, Lompoc and Santa Maria officials said they didn’t believe any changes to LAFCO’s policies are necessary, but they preferred the ad hoc committee’s recommendation opposed to the mitigation requirement.  

The recommendation to add the memorandum of agreement, but not the mitigation requirement, passed 6-1, with Hartmann voting against the measure because she felt it was unnecessary. 

—Zac Ezzon




Weekly Poll
What do you think of Santa Maria's decision to approve a public art master plan, without a fee to fund projects?

It's pointless. Why approve a plan without a way to pay for it?
It's great. It would be unfair to add an art fee to development permits.
I'd rather the city focus on issues more important than public art.
The city would feel more vibrant and walkable with additional public art.

| Poll Results