Wednesday, February 8, 2023     Volume: 23, Issue: 49

Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on December 24th, 2019, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 20, Issue 43 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 20, Issue 43

Buellton City Council asks county to tighten cannabis ordinance


Geographically located between northern and southern Santa Barbara County, the Santa Ynez Valley is also at the center of much of the area’s debate over cannabis cultivation.

The city of Buellton wants the county to create buffers that push cannabis farms farther away from city boundaries.

Some opponents of the plant point to what they see as a concentration of pending cannabis farms along Highway 246, just west of the city of Buellton, as a problem. Meanwhile, supporters of the budding industry say these concerns are overblown.

For its part, City Manager Scott Wolfe said Buellton has never asked the county to deny any cannabis cultivation permits. But the city does have serious concerns about the county’s existing cultivation ordinance and would like to see some changes. 

“We’re past the point of fighting, it’s more of working with the county,” Wolfe said.

Buellton City Council officially made its position clear to the county through a resolution it passed during its Dec. 12 meeting. The city passed this resolution following numerous appeal hearings over cannabis farms near the city and in anticipation of the county Planning Commission considering potential changes to the county’s cannabis ordinance early next year. 

Dan Klemann, deputy director of the county’s Long Range Planning Division, said county staff is still working on recommendations, but that the discussion should take place early next year, either in January or February. The possible amendments the county is weighing are based on what it’s learned since drafting its original ordinance. 

“It’s really one of those things where as we were implementing the ordinance, the [Board of Supervisors] started to realize that there were some results that they didn’t anticipate,” Klemann said. 

Buellton’s resolution outlines the city’s concerns about how cultivation near its boundaries could affect city residents’ quality of life and the tourism-based economy. Wolfe said the city would like the county to add an amendment that creates buffers to prevent cannabis from being grown within 1 mile of cities, such as Buellton. The idea is to push cannabis farms farther away from jurisdictions to prevent cannabis odors from drifting through the city.

The nearest cannabis farm to Buellton is a little less than half a mile away, on Santa Rosa Road. The next closest farm is a little more than a mile away, on Highway 246. Wolfe said although it’s hard to determine, based on conversations he’s had with county staff and cannabis farmers, it doesn’t appear that either of these projects contribute to the odors Buellton residents smell. He also noted that both are professional, well-run operations.

Although these neighbors may not pose odor issues, the city would like to see some degree of protection in place. Wolfe said that with the high number of farms proposed near the city, it’s important that odor doesn’t become even more of an issue in the future. 

In addition to odor, the city is concerned about any potential disruptions in the valley’s wine industry. Some vintners have voiced concerns that organic compounds called terpenes released from cannabis could taint grapes and change the taste of wine. However, a study funded by a cannabis farm applicant and presented at the county Planning Commission’s Dec. 11 meeting suggests these concerns may be unfounded. 

Nonetheless, Wolfe said the city is concerned that any slowdown in the wine industry would be detrimental to the city’s economy. Buellton received $2.7 million in sales tax revenue during its last fiscal year; $1 million of it was tourism-related.

“If we were to lose the tourism industry, it would be a big deal financially for Buellton,” Wolfe said.

Buellton modeled its resolution after similar ones passed earlier this year in the cities of Solvang, Goleta, and Carpinteria. Solvang passed its resolution in July, prior to a county Board of Supervisors meeting where possible ordinance amendments were discussed. 

In its resolution, Solvang also outlined concerns about cannabis cultivation taking place in close proximity to city boundaries. Specifically, Solvang cited one project on a small parcel of land adjacent to the city, in a mostly residential area. During its July meeting, the Board of Supervisors approved an amendment to ban cannabis cultivation on parcels of land 20 acres or less in the county’s Agricultural-I zone, which includes the property Solvang was concerned about.

During the July meeting, 3rd District Supervisor Joan Hartmann also introduced the idea of creating 1,500-foot buffers from urban boundaries to address Buellton and other jurisdictions’ concerns. The board directed staff to bring this item and other possible amendments to the Planning Commission for further consideration, which will take place early next year.

Hartmann said she’s not sure what these buffers will look like—whether they will stretch from parcel line to parcel line or from parcel line to cannabis operations. She said she also isn’t set on 1,500 feet being the right answer. 

The Planning Commission could look at other potential solutions as well, such as requiring farmers to dry out cannabis plants indoors while harvesting. This is generally when the most odors are emitted, Hartmann said.

Whatever direction the county goes with these amendments, Wolfe said Buellton wants to be part of the conversation. He acknowledges that the ideal solution will satisfy residents’ concerns while also allowing cultivators to do their job. 

“My perspective is simply trying to balance the needs of the cultivators with the needs of the residents here to have a decent quality of life,” Wolfe said. 

Reach Staff Writer Zac Ezzone at

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