Buellton’s leaders hope that a new buyer will keep the bowling alley project moving forward after the frustrated applicant declared “we’re done” and revealed plans to sell the land due to delays and costs blamed on bureaucracy.
City Manager Scott Wolfe updated the Buellton Planning Commission about the project after the applicant Carol Lesher Peterson told commissioners last month the family intended to sell the 10 acres at 290 E. Highway 246.
“If someone were to come in and purchase this property, the work that’s required through the engineering section here to bring this to conclusion should be very minimal,” Wolfe said. “Not negligent, but minimal. It shouldn’t take a long time at all.”
The Waypoint Bowling and Family Entertainment Center proposal included an 18-lane bowling alley, arcade, restaurant/bar, meeting rooms and office space in a 45,633-square-foot, two-story building. Plans also included an outdoor patio, a second-floor balcony, and three outdoor bocce ball courts.
“Our primary goal right now is to encourage and incentivize the development of this Waypoint project or some similar project,” Wolfe added.
A for sale sign now stands alongside the project sign touting the arrival of the project once known as Live Oak Lanes.
Lesher Peterson said she was frustrated at the report that this was “business as usual.”
Initial plans saw the project being developed on Industrial Way, but Terravant Wine Company opposed the location leading to appeals, a lawsuit, delays and relocation.
Plans for the Highway 246 site received approval in early 2017.
“Since that point, the planning department has basically been in the business of shepherding this project through and it has a been a priority for the city staff to get this project through its processing and under construction as quickly as possible,” Wolfe said.
Some delays occurred due to reviews by the building and engineering departments, but Wolfe said he believed those were reasonable and common for a project like this.
Other delays stemmed from the COVID-19, the applicant, a volatile economy that caused construction prices to spike and new state laws affecting Santa Barbara County Building Department’s review. The small city contracts with the County of Santa Barbara Building and Safety Division for building permit review and issuance and building inspection services.
“The big delay for the building department has not been due to their lack of desire to process this permit or to plan check this because we have been hounding them constantly telling them we need to prioritize this,” Wolfe said.
But state legislation has required building departments to prioritize residential construction developments ahead of any commercial construction project, Wolfe added.
“That’s been a major component of the delays that have been seen by the applicant,” Wolfe said, adding an agency that doesn’t follow the rules would face sanctions by the state.
A buyer for the land would face a ticking clock for the project to start construction work under the current approvals.
“We hope someone comes along and does take over because I think we can all agree the community wants it. It would be a great addition to our community,” Commission Chair Patty Hammel said.