Saturday, October 24, 2020     Volume: 21, Issue: 34

Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on December 30th, 2019, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 20, Issue 44 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 20, Issue 44

Group challenges county's approval of Orcutt shopping center in court

By Zac Ezzone

The Residents for Orcutt Sensible Growth took legal action against the county’s decision to approve plans for a new shopping center in Orcutt.

The county Planning Commission approved permits for the 50,000-square-foot Orcutt Gateway Retail Commercial Center on Aug. 14. Located on Clark Avenue near Highway 101, the project includes space for a grocery store, gas station, drive-though restaurant, and other commercial retail space. 

About one week after the Planning Commission approved the permits, the group of residents appealed the decision to the Board of Supervisors. The board unanimously denied the appeal during its meeting on Nov. 19.

Attorneys representing the group notified the county on Dec. 13 of their plans to challenge the county’s decision. 

“This action challenges the November 19, 2019 decision of the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors … to approve a request by The Minson Company … for the development of a new retail commercial center,” the notice states.

On Dec. 19, attorneys Tal Finney and Bruce Tepper filed a petition for write of mandate in Santa Barbara County Superior Court. Through this petition, the group is requesting a judge to require the county to complete further environmental analysis before approving the project. 

This concern of additional environmental review was at the center of the group’s initial appeal. During the board’s November meeting, Finney questioned the county’s decision to approve this project based on an environmental impact review completed for the Orcutt Community Plan in 1997.  

“Ours is a state population that is on the move,” Finney said. “We can’t afford to plan major developments based on 20-year-old environmental review documents.” 

At the meeting, Fourth District Supervisor Peter Adam acknowledged that the environmental impact review is 22 years old, but that the intended purpose for this land hasn’t changed since then. 

“Everybody’s known that this is going to be a commercial parcel from 22 years ago and they spent scads of time on the [Orcutt Community Plan],” Adam said.

The group’s concerns aren’t solely based on this project. In the appeal it filed, the group said that it’s also concerned about the cumulative environmental effects of this project and another development the county is reviewing.

During the Nov. 19 meeting, county Counsel Michael Ghizzoni told the board that based on California Environmental Quality Act guidelines, once an environmental impact review is completed for a community plan, additional review is usually unnecessary.

“There’s a fairly high bar for requiring additional environmental review,” Ghizzoni said.

As of Dec. 30, the county has not yet filed a response to the group’s petition.

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