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Windset Farms Seeking To Add More Greenhouses to Santa Maria Site

Planning Commission OKs development agreement, with permit to be considered in September

Windset Farms wants to add two new glass greenhouses totaling more than 1.3 million square feet along with an 88,000-square-foot processing and packing shed at its site on Black Road in Santa Maria.
Windset Farms wants to add two new glass greenhouses totaling more than 1.3 million square feet along with an 88,000-square-foot processing and packing shed at its site on Black Road in Santa Maria.

The Santa Maria Planning Commission has approved one step toward the fourth phase of a massive vegetable-growing operation on the western edge of the city.

Windset Farms wants to add two new glass greenhouses totaling more than 1.3 million square feet along with an 88,000-square-foot processing and packing shed at the site on Black Road.

Commissioners approved the development agreement this week, spelling out various conditions such as allowing continued deferrals of improvements of some roadways in the area.

“Under normal circumstances, when you develop property, the municipal code says you also have to develop the roadways that are adjacent to your property,” Community Development Director Larry Appel said.

The agreement allowed Windset to defer the work until other development occurs nearby. 

With the new agreement, the city agreed to roll over the deferral, but does call for improvements to Betteravia Road and Black Road within three years of receiving permission to occupy the new greenhouses. 

Additionally, the firm will pay the city $700,000 to compensate for the deferred construction .

The agreement also requires the firm to continue paying employees an average salary that is $1 per hour above minimum wage and to provide health benefits.

Windset, which has its headquarters in Canada, also is required to advertise on its packing that the produce hails from Santa Maria, city officials said.

The first three phases of Windset include four greenhouses totaling 5.8 million square feet plus a 141,000-square-foot processing and packing shed. The site also includes offices in addition to a water storage and treatment facility.

“It’s a huge huge facility,” Appel said of the tomato and cucumber growing operation.

The firm’s consultant, Brian Schwartz from Urban Planning Concepts, said the development agreement provides the mechanism for the infrastructure improvements to be installed in the logical place at the right time.

“Essentially, this development agreement represents a collaboration, a working collaboration between the city and Windset Farms, to continue to expand their existing facility, to continue to grow their company here in the city of Santa Maria,” Schwartz said. 

“The benefits of this development agreement really are substantial to both Windset Farms and to the city,” he said, noting the first roadway improvements will focus on Betteravia and Black roads, where the traffic is located. 

Commissioner Adrian Andrade asked about the agreement not to grow marijuana at the site.

Tony Martin, chief financial officer of Windset Farms, said city officials first raised the topic of  marijuana, adding that Windset built the greenhouses to grow vegetables and fruits for customers.

“If you look at the history of tobacco production, it’s not the tobacco farmers who make money, it’s the tobacco companies,” Martin said. “The same will be true of marijuana.”

With employees able to earn bonuses up to 50 percent of their base salary and health insurance benefits without co-pays, Windset has seen low employee turnover, Martin said. 

Commissioners’ recommendation will be sent to the City Council for consideration later this month, Appel said. 

The commission’s agenda in September will include another key item, the planned development permit, to allow the greenhouses and processing facility to proceed.

In another item, the commission approved several matters related to applicant’s Rogelio Panagua’s plans to build A Street Deli at the southwest corner of West Betteravia Road and A Street.

The one-half acre currently is designated for industrial zoning and land use, but the owner is seeking to change it to commercial. 

The plan calls for building a 4,420-square foot carryout delicatessen.

The commission recommended the council approve a General Plan land use map and zoning amendment and negative declaration.

The deli’s planned development permit will return to the commission in September.

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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