County bans cannabis cultivation in Tepusquet Canyon, other rural neighborhoods

A change in regulations further limits where cannabis farms can operate in Santa Barbara County.

click to enlarge County bans cannabis cultivation in Tepusquet Canyon, other rural neighborhoods
CHANGING THE RULES: The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors recently approved an extensive list of cannabis regulations amendments.

During its meeting on July 14, the Board of Supervisors approved a package of ordinance amendments that it developed during a previous hearing in June. Among the four changes is one that prohibits cannabis cultivation in existing developed rural neighborhoods, referred to as EDRNs, such as Tepusquet Canyon east of Santa Maria and Cebada Canyon near Lompoc.

Dan Klemann, deputy director of the county’s Long Range Planning Division told the board that this change would affect 12 cultivation applications that are in the pipeline. Additionally, it would remove about 25,000 acres of land located within the county’s EDRNs as potential sites for cannabis operations.

Much of the public comment from the more than 30 people who spoke during the meeting centered on this change. Multiple employees who work with Natural Healing Center, a company that operates cannabis retail stores in San Luis Obispo County and cultivation sites in Tepusquet Canyon, urged the board not to approve the ban. 

Nick Andre, the Natural Healing Center’s chief operating officer, said that the board has other alternatives to consider, such as setbacks, rather than a ban. He added that projects in an EDRN are already required to obtain a conditional use permit, meaning the Planning Commission will have a chance to weigh in and address project-specific concerns.

Joe Armendariz, another representative of Natural Healing Center, also urged the board not to adopt the ban and said that the canyon is perfectly suited for cannabis cultivation.

“If ever there were a place for cannabis cultivation to thrive, far from any and all sensitive receptors, it is up in the Tepusquet Mountains where cultivation has been occurring without impact to neighbors for over 20 years,” Armendariz said.

Residents who live in the canyon pushed back on this assertion. Lil Clary, who lives in the canyon, said she supports the ban but would like it to also include parcels that can only be accessed via a roadway within an EDRN. She and other residents cited their concerns about cannabis-related traffic on Tepusquet Road, including the presence of large trucks traveling up and down the narrow, windy road.

Clary said these traffic issues aren’t her only concern with the cultivation. 

“I assure you, residents hear the generators, we see the hoop structures, and we smell the stench,” Clary said.

The board approved three other changes during its meeting. All four of the changes don’t apply to projects that have already received their final approval from the county.

One amendment requires applicants to obtain a conditional use permit when proposing to grow cannabis on more than 51 percent of the total acreage of a parcel. Another amendment requires all drying and processing to take place within an enclosed building equipped with the best available odor control. The final change requires all cannabis cultivation to take place at least 50 feet away from neighboring properties. 

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