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Santa Barbara County Planning Commission OKs Starbucks In Orcutt

Applicant agrees to add solar panels after questions arise about air quality impacts from drive-thru operation

The corner of Clark Avenue and Bradley Road is home to Domino’s Pizza now but the County Planning Commission approved plans for a drive-thru Starbucks coffee shop at that spot.
The corner of Clark Avenue and Bradley Road is home to Domino’s Pizza now but the County Planning Commission approved plans for a drive-thru Starbucks coffee shop at that spot.  (Janene Scully / Noozhawk file photo)

A proposed drive-thru Starbucks coffee shop will add solar panels after the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission raised concerns about the project’s effects on air quality.

Four weeks after postponing action on the project, commissioners voted Wednesday to allow the Starbucks after hearing more about drive-thru traffic effects on air quality and learning the applicant agreed to add solar panels to offset the potential impact.

Starbucks is proposed for the southwest corner of Clark Avenue and Bradley Road in Orcutt, a corner where a former gas station once operated and more recently has been home to Domino’s Pizza. 

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

The item was continued from a meeting last month after some commissioners questioned whether a drive-thru restaurant would harm air quality. 

After the previous meeting, the applicant hired a consultant to evaluate the air quality impact and determined the project was compliant with the Energy and Climate Action Plan.

“As a part of our commitment to environmentally conscious development, we have also contracted Brighten Solar to design a solar system to further offset greenhouse gas emissions and the potential for global warming,” said Matthew Bush, the applicant’s representative. 

“We look forward to delivering this project that will be productive to the county and environmentally friendly and will hopefully be an overall community asset that will benefit the county,” he added.

County staff said studies showed the drive-thru would have “an overall benefit,” leading to some lower air pollutants created by stopping and starting a vehicle.

Other greenhouse gas emissions would be higher, but the number also is dependent upon the annual service time period, staff said.

Commission Chairman Larry Ferini, whose district includes Orcutt, said a drive-thru facility is convenient for mothers with young children and elderly people unable to walk into the store.

Commissioner Daniel Blough, who represents Santa Maria, said that after hearing staff reports Wednesday he felt confident that project would not be significantly adverse to the environment.

“There’s lots and lots of things we could do that would have a much greater impact on those gases so with that, I’m prepared to support the motion,” Blough said. 

Commissioner Cecilia Brown, who was one of the members asking for the additional information at last month’s meeting, said she agreed with staff that there are bigger bites of the apple to try to reduce greenhouse gases.

“I personally don’t believe in drive-thrus, because I walk everywhere,” Brown said. “But I am in support of the project. … I think it’s going to be a great improvement for that corner over what exists.”

She added that the addition of the solar panels are plus.

Commissioners vote 4-1 approve the conditional use permit and other matters related to the Starbucks project. 

Commissioner C. Michael Cooney cast the lone opposition vote, saying he agreed the project would be a valuable addition to Orcutt but that he could not find that air quality impacts would be insignificant.

Santa Barbara-based architect Paul Poirier designed the project for owner/applicant Tatum and Shea Ltd. 

The project could break ground within 3 months, representatives 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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