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Wednesday, December 12 , 2018, 7:24 am | Fair 45º


Air-Quality Questions Delay Orcutt Starbucks Proposal Before Santa Barbara County Planners

Concern was focused on idling cars in drive-through portion of coffee shop planned at Clark Avenue and Bradley Road

A proposal to demolish this restaurant at Clark Avenue and Bradley Road in Orcutt and build a Starbucks coffee shop with a drive-through and outdoor patio was delayed this week over questions about air-quality.
A proposal to demolish this restaurant at Clark Avenue and Bradley Road in Orcutt and build a Starbucks coffee shop with a drive-through and outdoor patio was delayed this week over questions about air-quality. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

Questions about the effects of idling cars on greenhouse gases have put the brakes on a proposed new drive-through Starbucks coffee shop in Orcutt for at least a month.

The Santa Barbara County Planning Commission on Wednesday postponed the item until its April 6 meeting after a majority of the members said they needed to hear more about effects of the drive-through vehicle emissions.

The new Starbucks is proposed for the southwest corner of Clark Avenue and Bradley Road, the site of a former gas station converted into a Domino’s Pizza restaurant.

The landowners plan to demolish the exist 1,561-square-foot building to make way for a 1,693-square-foot coffee shop with outdoor patio and a drive-through.

Commissioners Larry Ferini and Dan Blough were poised to approve the project, but the panel’s majority — Marell Brooks, C. Michael Cooney and Cecilia Brown — said they needed more information.

Cooney, who represents the First District, said Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District studies discuss avoiding idling for longer than 30 seconds at a time, which also is stated on the California Air Resources Board and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency websites. 

“To me … it’s incongruous for the Air Pollution Control District to, on the one hand, say car idling is a problem, and on the other hand, say to our staff that it’s impossible to say that it’s worse with a drive-in facility or better,” Cooney said.

He suggested continuing the item so APCD officials could weigh in and a study could be done to assist commissioners in making the finding the project would be no more damaging to the air quality than it would without the drive-through facility.

“I personally don’t think I would be convinced, but I’m only one commissioner. In any event, I’m open to looking at the study we should have before us,” Cooney said.

Brooks, who represents the Third District, said she supported continuing the item to get the information clarified to determine whether the drive-thru would create significant impacts. 

“I would like to get that information and feel very comfortable,” she said. “And if there is science that shows that, I would like to have APCD come and show that to me.”

“I support the project,” she added. “It looks great. It’s going to be an improvement.”

But, she said, Orcutt already has five other drive-through facilities at the intersection’s other corners.

Blough, the Fifth District commissioner, opposed postponing the item.

“What you’re talking about here, I think, is prohibiting any more more drive-throughs in Santa Barbara County,” Blough said. “If you determine the pollution from drive-throughs is gonna be adverse to air quality, then we need to make that determination countywide, not project by project.”

Blough said it wasn’t appropriate for the applicant to fund the study or face delays while the commission awaited answers.

Ferini also said he wanted to approve the project.

“It’s a good project that the community could use. Overall, the community will win getting this project in place,” he said.

Brown also said it was imperative to hear from the APCD before the commission decides on the project, adding it would useless to hear it afterward.

“This is not about an attempt to stop drive-throughs,” said Brown, the Second District’s commissioner. “I think it’s our duty to understand what the significance of the greenhouse gas emissions are from this project. I just think we need to move forward in that way and not just approve it blindly.”

But Ferini said the approval Wednesday would not be done blindly since APCD included a letter approving the project. 

Cooney said the additional time will allow the commissioners to learn APCD’s opinion on drive-through restaurants and greenhouse gases.

“I don’t see that it’s going to be a huge involved study or that it’s going to take a lot of time,” Cooney said. 

Santa Barbara-based architect Paul Poirier, representing owner/applicant Tatum and Shea Ltd, said the paperwork for the project was submitted for processing more than a year ago. 

“We are trying to fast-track this project for Starbucks because we’re trying to make up the time that it took for us to work out the building square footage, the transportation layout, and the four additional queuing spaces in the drive-through,” Poirier 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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