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 32 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 21, Issue 32

Cannabis grow near Buellton approved

By Kasey Bubnash

It’s been about a year and a half since Castlerock Family Farms first applied to operate a cannabis grow on a ranch just outside of Buellton, and despite two appeals and concerns about how cannabis odors will impact neighboring communities and businesses, the project is moving forward. 

At a hearing on Oct. 6, the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 to approve the 23-acre project, dismissing a July 20 appeal of the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission’s earlier approval.  

At a hearing on Oct. 6, the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 to approve a 23-acre cannabis grow near Buellton.

John Wagner, who filed the appeal in association with the Santa Barbara County Coalition for Responsible Cannabis, owns Peake Ranch Vineyard and a wine tasting room that sits a little more than a mile away from the Castlerock site. Although in the letter of appeal Wagner claims recent changes in law would impact the project and require further environmental review, much of the conversation surrounding the project came down to cannabis odors and how they impact nearby businesses, particularly wineries. 

Attorney Courtney Taylor, who represented Wagner at the hearing, said the Castlerock project is just one of many that are not required to mitigate odor issues in the Santa Ynez Valley, where she said intensifying cannabis odors are making it harder for already existing wineries to attract customers and sell wine. 

“We are not concerned that the project will be incompliant with its permit condition or that the applicants are bad actors as stated in some of the public comment for the project,” Taylor said at the Oct. 6 hearing. “We’re concerned there is no permit condition that assures neighbors there will be no adverse impacts due to odors.” 

Castlerock Family Farms first applied in February 2019 for a land use permit that would allow for outdoor cannabis cultivation on the nearly 700-acre Williams Ranch, which sits about 2 miles west of Buellton and has been actively cultivated in some form or another for nearly a century. 

The application was approved in July 2019, according to a county staff report, and Wagner and the Santa Barbara County Coalition for Responsible Cannabis appealed that decision a few weeks later, claiming the project would generate odors that could be detrimental to nearby vineyards and wine tasting rooms. 

Prior to the Planning Commission’s appeal hearing on July 8 of this year, Castlerock submitted a revised project plan, which included the elimination of all on-site cannabis processing—which is generally considered to be when the most intense odors are generated—and two processing facilities, along with increased landscaping aimed at shielding views of the grow from the public. Staff reviewed the revisions, and the Planning Commission dismissed Wagner’s appeal and approved the Castlerock project at a July 8 hearing. 

Wagner and the Coalition for Responsible Cannabis filed an appeal of that decision on July 20. 

“Appellant was pleased to see the changes made by the applicant,” Taylor said. “But there is a remaining issue regarding the odor impacts of this project and the cumulative impacts given the adjacent projects.” 

Both 4th District Supervisor Peter Adam, who voted against the Castlerock project, and 3rd District Supervisor Joan Hartmann agreed that the county’s inability to prevent and enforce nuisance odors stemming from cannabis farms needs to be addressed. 

Although the board largely agreed that Castlerock’s proposed project meets current standards and would likely not contribute greatly to the odor issue, Hartmann said she’d like to further discuss the broader issue of cannabis odors at a later date. 

“We’ve spent the last days in the Santa Ynez Valley with heat over 100 degrees, with heavy smoke particulates, and then it’s made even worse by this cloying smell of cannabis,” Hartmann said at the hearing. “I’ve had letters and emails and complaints from residents. We all have a letter from the city of Buellton. I want to remind everybody on this board, there’s no odor control for large agricultural parcels. It’s having a huge negative impact on the residents’ well-being, visitors, and businesses in the Santa Ynez Valley. It’s not imagined. It’s not exaggerated. It’s real, and it’s going to get much worse.”

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