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Friday, March 22 , 2019, 10:40 pm | Fair 56º


Lack of Permit Shuts Down Recovery Ranch Cocoa Stand in Santa Ynez

Santa Barbara County alerts operators about popular commercial facility being prohibited in residential zone

Holiday lights are still on, but a cocoa stand operated by Recovery Ranch at its Santa Ynez facility has been shut down due to complaints about it being a zoning violation. Click to view larger
Holiday lights are still on, but a cocoa stand operated by Recovery Ranch at its Santa Ynez facility has been shut down due to complaints about it being a zoning violation. (Facebook photo)

A relatively new holiday tradition in Santa Ynez Valley has closed suddenly after a complaint to Santa Barbara County revealed the Recovery Ranch cocoa stand did not have permission to operate at the Tivola Street site.

“It’s definitely disappointing, because being a part of community is really important to us . It’s always been staple of what we do,” said Jared Erb, intake director and co-director. 

The county Planning and Development Department code-enforcement process employs a complaint-only process, Director Glenn Russell said. 

“In this case, we received a complaint that unpermitted commercial activities, including but not limited to the cocoa stand, were taking place at Recovery Ranch,” Russell said. “Commercial operations like that are not allowed on residentially zoned properties, which this is.”

Recovery Ranch provides a structured sober-living program for men, where the focus involves honesty and accountability while living as gentleman where even swearing is banned. 

“We focus on becoming better people as a whole,” Erb said, adding that Recovery Ranch’s will mark its fifth anniversary Jan. 1.

Work ethic is a key focus with the program offering Ranch Hands, or helpers to do a variety of chores; Ranch Wash, providing mobile detailing for vehicles; Ranch Gear, a screen printing business and a men’s clothing store; Ranch Guys, a mobile catering; and a rose-growing operation.

The food truck, which has the proper health permits, was a key part of the Christmas season cocoa stand.

“We really want to continue to offer that as tradition to families for Christmas,” Erb said.

Five years ago, the cocoa stand began with a plastic table.

“And it’s grown from there,” Erb said, estimating they received as many as 200 customers some nights but typically a much lower number of 30.

Fans of the cocoa stand expressed sadness that the stand closed on social media.

“The only way that these activities would be permitted would be to rezone the property from residential to commercial,” Russell said. “A rezone is a long and expensive process that would ultimately need to be approved by the Board of Supervisors.”

His staff sent Recovery Ranch a formal notice of violation for conducting commercial operations in a residential area, which should have arrived this week. 

“Once received, they will have 30 days to stop the commercial activities or risk being fined,” Russell said. 

To continue the business, they would need to seek rezoning and a General Plan change from residential to commercial.

In addition, a conditional-use permit would be required if the residential uses at the site remain, Petra Leyva, code enforcement supervisor.

Obtaining the proper permission to operate could take up to a year, added Leyva.

Since the closure, Erb said, the organization has received several phone calls daily inquiring about the status. 

“It’s definitely disappointing,” he said, adding that he dislikes having to tell people the cocoa stand is closed despite initial plans to stay open until Jan. 1. “It’s sad.”

Accompanying the cocoa stand has been a bright display of lights at the Recovery Ranch barn. 

“For now, it’s just the lights,” Erb 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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