Wednesday, May 18, 2022     Volume: 23, Issue: 11

Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on January 26th, 2022, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 22, Issue 48 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 22, Issue 48

Supervisors approve controversial Santa Ynez greenhouse project

By Taylor O'Connor

Solvang-area resident Steve Decker can finally move forward with building his greenhouse—despite neighbor disputes and frustrations—after nearly two years of going through the planning and appeals process. 

“We are happy to see that Planning and Development has fully developed our project to meet—or exceed—the Santa Ynez Community Plan,” Decker said at the Jan. 25 meeting. 

Decker wants to build a 15,648-square-foot greenhouse that will be used for vegetable cultivation on his agriculturally zoned property. He filed a permit application in June 2020, and the project was approved and exempted from California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) review at the time, as county staff classified it as a small structure, according to previous Sun reporting. A neighbor filed an appeal to the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission and argued that the structure wasn’t compatible with the surrounding neighborhood. 

After the commission upheld the appeal and denied his project permit, Decker took the issue to the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors on Feb. 9, 2021, during which the board asked for an additional environmental review. The Jan. 25 staff report stated that the project met the review requirements as well as fit with the Santa Ynez Valley Community Plan, and the board approved the project permit despite resident concerns. 

During public comment, Solvang area resident Nancy Emerson said that this project does not fit the community plan because of the land’s commercial use. 

“In previous hearings, neighbors addressed the appropriateness of this size structure in a neighborhood that was primarily residences rather than commercial agricultural. No agricultural structure approaches this greenhouse’s square footage,” Emerson said. 

The greenhouse structure would be an eyesore and a potential noise problem for neighbors, she added, issues that fences and barriers can’t solve. 

Third District Supervisor Joan Hartmann agreed with Emerson. 

“The Santa Ynez Community Plan states its goal is to protect and support agricultural land use and appropriate land expansion. You have to understand [what is] appropriate in this context of these changing kinds of agricultural uses,” Hartmann said. “Nobody expected to be living next to a commercial agricultural operation with employees and parking lots, and a huge industrial building in their neighborhood that is highly visible. I believe that it’s inconsistent.” 

Although many residents may agree with Hartmann, 4th District Supervisor Bob Nelson had a hard time finding the project inappropriate for the area’s intent. 

“I understand where the neighbors are coming from, but that said, it’s agriculturally zoned. If I lived in that neighborhood, I wouldn’t be happy either, but I’ve tried to stay consistent as a supervisor on these matters,” Nelson said. “I think that it’s appropriate for the zoning; it’s an agricultural use. As frustrating as that might be, the board can’t go anywhere besides supporting Mr. Decker. We asked for an environmental review and got the same result. If we were going to deny it now, we should have denied it a year ago.” 

Fifth District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino expressed a similar sentiment. 

“Nobody is jumping up and down and celebrating this project. At the end of the day, it does meet criteria for the zoning. Mr. Decker has jumped through more than his share of hoops,” Lavagnino said. “I’m not a huge fan of the project and I understand the neighbors’ concerns, but unfortunately I can’t get to the bar of ‘appropriate,’ meaning that we have discretion just to be able to pick and choose what projects we approve in that area.”

Weekly Poll
What type of vegetable would you grow in a free community garden?

Brussel Sprouts, they are the best.
Broccoli because it can go with any meal.
Tomatoes, although I think those are technically a fruit.
French fries!

| Poll Results

My 805 Tix - Tickets to upcoming events