Buellton Commission OKs renewal of Hub mixed-use development

GREEN ACRES: The Buellton Hub mixed-use complex, in development since 2018, will be located near the southern end of Industrial Way in Buellton.
Image courtesy of the Buellton Planning Comission
GREEN ACRES: The Buellton Hub mixed-use complex, in development since 2018, will be located near the southern end of Industrial Way in Buellton.

Originally set to expire in 2021, the tentative tract map for a 17-acre mixed-use project in Buellton is on track for its third time extension.

The Buellton Hub—an upcoming plaza of residential apartments, business offices, and recreation areas planned for Industrial Way—was revisited by the Buellton Planning Commission during its Aug. 17 meeting to consider whether to renew its parcel map for another year without needing it to be completely resubmitted.

“Staff feels that it is reasonable to recommend approval of the time extension request at this time, as the applicant has made a lot of progress on processing the final map,” Buellton Planning Director Andrea Keefer said at the meeting. 

Keefer explained that the city’s municipal code enforces that tentative tract maps for approved projects expire after three years, but allows up to three applications for one-year time extensions. 

The Buellton Hub was originally greenlit by both the Buellton Planning Commission and the Buellton City Council in 2018. In 2021, the project earned an automatic 18-month extension thanks to a state statute adopted during the pandemic to assist housing developments in progress.

The project’s property owner, SBID LLC, was granted its first one-year extension from the city in August 2022 and submitted its application for its second in July 2023. 

According to the staff report, SBID LLC is “actively working toward compliance with relevant conditions of approval,” and city staff is “unaware of any reason to deny the extension.”

During public comment at the Aug. 17 meeting, Buellton resident and former City Councilmember John Dorwin criticized staff’s latest assessment of the project as outdated, since the project’s environmental review was approved in February 2018, prior to the January 2023 storm.

Dorwin specifically challenged a section in the staff report that states “no changes have occurred with respect to the project, or its environmental surroundings, to require subsequent environmental review.”

“You can’t make these findings due to the flood, which occurred across the entire project on Jan. 9,” said Dorwin, who added that the project site was “inundated by Zaca Creek coming out of its banks” during the storm.

Dorwin argued that those circumstances should require a new environmental review “as a trigger event under CEQA” (the California Environmental Quality Act) and believes “the city has to go back and review all of the thresholds for environmental review relating to Zaca Creek flood control, the floodway, and this proposed residential use adjacent to the Zaca Creek floodway.”

“We’ve had some real tragedies here in the county. Some of us remember 1969 when every bridge on the [Santa Ynez] River was taken out,” Dorwin said. “A lot of people were lost, not just because they were sucked into drainage facilities or they drowned adjacent to draining facilities. Quite a number of them perished trying to escape from one area to evacuate to another area.”

Buellton Planning Commissioner Art Mercado sided with staff’s findings and motioned for a recommendation that the City Council grant the Hub project another one-year extension.

“Staff has already seen fit to say that this process should be followed, so I think it’s within reason that we vote yes on this,” Mercado said, shortly before the motion passed with a 4-0 vote. Planning Commissioner Laura Romano DeFazio recused herself from voting due to a proximity conflict. 

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