The plan is a collaborative effort between county Parks and the Planning and Development Department to make changes to the county’s general plan policies and land use zoning codes to support recreation development in Santa Barbara County, Parks Assistant Director Jeff Lindgren told commissioners during the Aug. 30 meeting.
In order to understand community needs, Parks and Planning divided the county into five recreation areas—the Cuyama Valley, Lompoc Valley, Santa Ynez Valley, Santa Maria Valley, and the South Coast—and conducted “massive” public outreach with more than 40 public workshops and research to create a needs assessment.
“The outcome of a lot of that outreach, the takeaway, is strong support for new and improved parks and trails,” Lindgren said. “Third would be swimming pools, and there was some indication that park maintenance needs to be improved across the county and adding new and different types of recreation was well noted.”
Santa Maria and Guadalupe wanted more trails, sports leagues, exercise equipment, disc golf, swimming and aquatics, and dog parks, he added. North County communities tend to have younger children and lower income families, important aspects to recognize when addressing recreational needs.
“Guadalupe has the highest proportion of children and highest average household size; we also see they only have two formal parks in the city. There’s a community in need within Guadalupe,” Lindgren said. “Orcutt and Santa Maria have similar geographic areas and the Santa Maria Valley is the fastest growing region in Santa Barbara County. Those are important factors when looking at programing recreation in North County.”
In order to address community needs, Planning and Development will look at updating the housing, land use, and open space elements in the county’s state-required general plan and the zoning ordinances needed to implement changed policies, Planning and Development Director Lisa Plowman said.
“We will try not to create barriers, but incentives for onsite recreation, … incentives to developers like changes in height requirements, setback,” Plowman said. “We’re going to work to weave incentives for recreation and housing to work in a collaborative way.”
Private landowners and developers who add a recreational opportunity to their land could see simplified permitting, increased intensity of use, a reduction or waiver of park fees, and the ability to open private campgrounds, RV sites, or a trailside cafe, Planning and Development Assistant Director Jeff Wilson said.
Grower-Shipper Association of Santa Barbara and SLO Counties President Claire Wineman said that the association supported the recreation master plan but wanted to make sure it’s compatible with the agriculture industry, as agriculture land can expand its use under this plan, she said.
“There’s places where this is a great fit, but we should be cognizant of those situations with somebody with intensive agricultural use next door,” Wineman said. “Now you’ve got a campground and glamping where people are paying hundreds and thousands of dollars a night and they are complaining because cows are mooing or you are night harvesting your vineyard.”
If there’s an area with more agricultural production, she added that she hopes there would be ample time to look at ground and local conditions before opening recreational opportunities, she said.
“Our main focus is ensuring there is ongoing production of agriculture [with] these new recreational uses if they do move forward,” Wineman said.
Send input, comments and questions about the Recreation Master Plan to [email protected] or [email protected]. The Sept. 27 hearing will be held in Santa Barbara, 123 East Anapamu St., or streamed at countyofsb.org/1625/County-Planning-Commission.