Coalition for Responsible Cannabis resolves odor concerns with local grows, withdraws appeal

The Santa Barbara County Coalition for Responsible Cannabis withdrew an appeal on Aug. 16 that it made against the county-approved Autumn Brands and Ocean Hill Farms cannabis project, after reaching an agreement with cannabis growers. 

After the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission approved the Carpinteria-based cannabis operation in April 2021, the Coalition for Responsible Cannabis appealed the project over odor control and environmental impact concerns. With the appeal withdrawn, the project can move forward. 

click to enlarge Coalition for Responsible Cannabis resolves odor concerns with local grows, withdraws appeal
GROWING TOGETHER : Autumn Shelton, owner of Autumn Brands and president of CARP Growers, said she was happy to reach an agreement with the Coalition for Responsible Cannabis and to see the organization withdraw its appeal against her company’s approved cannabis grow.

The coalition’s mission is to “promote the development of a cannabis industry in Santa Barbara County that respects surrounding land uses and existing businesses,” Marc Chytilo, the coalition’s attorney, wrote in the appeal letter. “[The coalition’s] members live and operate various businesses within the vicinity of the project, and are concerned about the enforceability of permit conditions to address odor impacts of the project to adjacent land uses.”

County Planner Ben Singer said these odor concerns were resolved, leading to the coalition’s withdrawal of its appeal. CARP Growers, a group of Carpinteria cannabis farmers, came to an agreement with the coalition on a Model Odor Abatement Plan, which will now go through an approval process with the county’s Planning Commission. Singer said the county was consulted by the two parties at various stages of the plan’s development, so he expects that approval to go smoothly. He said the plan will be implemented by individual growers and projects.

Autumn Brands Owner and CFO Autumn Shelton is also the president of CARP Growers. She told the Sun in an emailed statement that she was thrilled to see the coalition’s appeal withdrawn.

“We have been working with the appellant, Coalition for Responsible Cannabis, over the last several months to reach an agreement that not only includes our farm, but also the other member farms in CARP Growers,” Shelton wrote. “Autumn Brands has always been a leader in the cannabis industry, and we are excited about this partnership with the coalition, which will strengthen our odor complaint response protocols.” 

The resolution is groundbreaking, Shelton continued, because CARP Growers worked side by side with the coalition to reach an agreement.

“It’s a comprehensive program to solve the odor issues in Carpinteria,” coalition lawyer Chytilo said. “It’s the product of nearly a year’s worth of work to develop the science of advanced odor control technology and odor detection methods.”

In addition to the odor abatement plan, the coalition and each member of CARP Growers agreed to community odor guidelines that go beyond what the county’s ordinance can enforce, Chytilo said. The most significant component, he said, “is that we have expanded the area where odors will not be tolerated to include all publicly accessible areas,” such as schools, parks, or businesses. The county ordinance limits odor enforcement to residentially zoned areas.  

The coalition filed a number of appeals to approved cannabis projects in Santa Barbara County before the most recent one against Autumn Brands. In some cases, the organization went further by initiating litigation.

The Planning Commission’s 2019 approval of Busy Bee Organics in Santa Ynez was appealed by the coalition to the Board of Supervisors. The board unanimously approved the plans despite the appeal, so the coalition took things to court in April 2020. 

More than a year later in May 2021, Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge Thomas P. Anderle sided with the cannabis grow and the county, denying the coalition’s claims that the grow violated the California Environmental Quality Act. At the time, the Sun reported that the decision could affect the coalition’s future attempts to sue local cannabis grows and the county. 

Singer wasn’t sure whether the lawsuit had any affect on the recent appeal withdrawal, but he said the agreement reached is a positive thing for both Carpinteria growers and the Coalition for Responsible Cannabis.

“The withdrawal of the appeal is something that has been a work in progress on all fronts, and it’s nice to see that work come together, and people agree on this method and this project,” Singer said. 

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