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

Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on February 18th, 2021, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 21, Issue 20 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 21, Issue 20

Planning Commission approves cannabis project on Williams Ranch

By Zac Ezzone

A cannabis project located about 2 miles west of Buellton is moving forward after the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission rejected an appeal filed by a nearby vineyard operator.

Last August, John Wagner of Peake Ranch Winery appealed the county Planning Department’s decision to approve a land use permit for the Castlerock Family Farms cannabis project. In a unanimous decision, the commission rejected the appeal and allowed the project to move forward. 

The Santa Barbara County Planning Commission recently dismissed the appeal of a cannabis project in Buellton.

Attorney Courtney Taylor, who represented Wagner and the Santa Barbara County Coalition for Responsible Cannabis in the appeal, claimed the project shouldn’t be approved because the odor it and other proposed cannabis farms could generate would be detrimental to the nearby vineyards and wine tasting rooms. Taylor said that for most wineries, tasting rooms are their main source of revenue. 

Blair Pence of Pence Vineyards and Winery—which is located across Highway 246 from the project site—said that these odors could prevent customers from returning. Pence is one of the founders of the Santa Barbara County Coalition for Responsible Cannabis, which has filed multiple lawsuits over the county’s approval of cannabis farms in the Santa Ynez Valley.

“If we cannot effectively sell wine in our tasting rooms, we are done,” Pence said. “It is simple logic that wine aficionados will not return if the smell of pot ruins the experience for them.”

But most commissioners said odors aren’t as much of an issue in this case. The project includes the cultivation of 23 acres of cannabis on a nearly 700-acre ranch. The closest tasting room to the grow site—which is Pence’s—is about 2,000 feet away. 

Troy White with TW Land Planning and Development—who represented the project applicants during the meeting—said no onsite drying will take place, which is generally when the most odors are generated.

The project is located on land leased on the Williams Ranch, which is otherwise used for cattle ranching and grazing. White said the Williams family has ranched in the valley for generations and has routinely leased out about 25 acres of its land to row crop farmers for additional income. This proposed situation is no different, other than the crop being grown. 

“The supplemental income stream associated with this farming has been and continues to be an important source of revenue for the Williams family,” White said.

While the commission unanimously approved the project, Commissioner Dan Blough acknowledged that the final decision will likely rest with the Board of Supervisors just as other projects the commission has either rejected or approved. 

“I’m not concerned about my decision today because I know it’s going to be appealed,” Blough said.

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