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Thursday, November 22 , 2018, 3:25 am | Fog/Mist 52º


Santa Barbara County Decides Hoop Houses Can Grow To 20 Feet Before Needing Permits

Future review by the county will assess the zoning regulations for the plastic-covered agricultural structures

Hoop houses, or temporary agricultural structures, are becoming commonplace around northern Santa Barbara County.
Hoop houses, or temporary agricultural structures, are becoming commonplace around northern Santa Barbara County. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

The height of hoop houses for specialty crops can grow to 20 feet before a permit is required, under a change narrowly approved by the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday. 

The vote affects the building regulations only for the temporary agricultural protection structures, also known as hoop houses, which increasingly are being used for raspberries and other crops.

The change is expected to be finalized with the second reading of the ordinance April 19. 

Current regulations restrict the structures to 12 feet in height before a permit is required, and the change would see the exemption change to 20 feet which reflects the height of some hoop houses in the county.

First District Supervisor Salud Carbajal, who voted in favor of the change with Chair Peter Adam and Fifth District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino, said he backed the proposal because to do nothing meant allowing “an illegal practice” since some agricultural operations already use taller structures.

“What we’re doing today is recognizing that we have an absence of a policy that is not addressing the reality on the ground for agriculture operations and that’s why I’m willing to support this,” Carbajal said.

Third District Supervisor Doreen Farr said she didn’t support the change.

“I think there are important process issues here that haven’t been addressed in order,” she said.

“I certainly appreciate the fact the ag community feels this is an issue of great importance and I see it as important too.”

But Farr said she didn’t think the county followed its normal process for amending ordinances. She also disagreed that the change was exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act requirements. 

“In no way would I see the increase in height limit from 12 to 20 feet as not having any environmental impacts,” she said. “There will be definitely visual impacts, if nothing else.”

Second District Supervisor Janet Wolf also opposed the change.

“I don’t think the change from 12 to 20 feet is something that is inconsequential,” she said. 

“I will not be supporting this. It’s just not the way we do business,” Wolf added.

But the topic isn’t over,

While this month’s amendments cover building regulations, the topic — specifically, zoning regulation changes — are expected to return as a Long Range Planning Work Program which will be discussed during budget workshops next week.

Any changes to zoning requirements would require CEQA review, county staff confirmed.

“That’s why I’m inclined to support this solution because this is one of a two-step effort that will require environmental review and require CEQA to really effectuate this in the proper process and zoning method that needs to take place for this to be effective,” Carbajal said.

The topic of hoop house regulations has drawn opposition from neighbors in past, but the lone public speaker Tuesday, Claire Wineman, president of Grower-Shipper Association of Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties, urged the board to adopt the height change.

“This issue remains very important to our members and we encourage you to take this step towards providing certainty and opportunity for innovation in agriculture,” she said. 

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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