Sign at proposed site of a bowling alley in Buellton.
After 10 years of hurdles, endless red tape and thousands of dollars, the family intending to build a bowling alley in Buellton has scrapped plans and intends to sell the land. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

After 10 years of hurdles, endless red tape and thousands of dollars, the family intending to build a bowling alley in Buellton has scrapped plans and intends to sell the land.

Carol Lesher Peterson provided an update during the Buellton Planning Commission meeting last week. 

“I can’t play anymore,” she told commissioners. “I don’t have the energy. I don’t have the sanity.”

It’s a sad end for a project eagerly awaited by Santa Ynez Valley residents, who often greet members of the Lesher and Peterson families with questions about the bowling alley’s status. 

“This project started out with so much hope and excitement, and has been met with constant rejection and disappointment,” said daughter Valerie Lesher, adding that a bowling alley would serve all ages and provide activities for people with varying abilities. 

“The community will mourn this loss, too,” daughter Kelly Lesher said. “It’s been frustrating that we are a local family trying to invest in and enhance the community in which we live in and love. We are not some out-of-the-area investor or big corporation. 

During the Planning Commission meeting, Lesher Peterson gave a rundown of the lengthy ordeal “that has been just mentally, physically, financially exhausting for us.”

Once planned for Industrial Way, the project encountered strong opposition and a legal challenge from Terravant Wine Company. The bowling alley applicant had to pay its own attorney’s costs plus the city’s.

Lesher Peterson found a new home for the project — 10 acres at 290 E. Highway 246. 

The proposal that gained Buellton Planning Commission approval in April 2017 called for 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.

Along the way, the Live Oak Lanes gained a new name, The Waypoint Bowling and Family Entertainment Center. 

Architects’s rendition of a bowling alley that was proposed in Buellton.

Architects’s rendition of a bowling alley that was proposed in Buellton. The owner has scrapped plans and intends to sell the land. (DMHA Architecture illustration)

In preparation for opening, members of the Lesher and Peterson families attended “Bowling University” to learn the art of operating the entertainment center.

As the project progressed through bureaucratic hurdles, each meeting resulted in confounding and costly requests. 

One meeting led to a complaint that one side of the building near a mini-storage facility was too plain so they looked to add landscaping, bringing more expenses and additional delays.

In August, she learned of another $1,000 demand for a payment, thinking the final permits were near at last, Lesher Peterson said.

“We’re at the finish line. Hallelujah, We can finally get this show on the road,” she recalled thinking.

Then came more requests that added up to thousands of dollars and still more delays.

“One of the things they requested was a demolition plan for a vacant lot. If there was a demolition plan wanted or needed, that should have been addressed day one in November 2016 when we bought the property. Why wasn’t that addressed then?” she asked. 

“After all this time and all this stress and everything, when I got that, it’s like, screw it, We’re done,” Lesher Peterson said.

They have placed the land up for sale and the sign touting Live Oak Lanes will be replaced with one saying “For sale.”

“Hopefully, whoever buys it will give you the much needed family entertainment center that everyone in this valley seems to want,” she told the commission. “We can’t play any more. We’re taking our ball and going home.”

“We’re very sorry to hear that,” Commission Chair Patty Hammel said. 

During comments at the end of meeting, Commissioner Art Mercado said he wanted to address “the elephant in the room for the night.”

“I’m disappointed our bowling alley is not going to come to fruition, so my question to staff is why are we having the issues— supposedly?” Mercado asked.

Staff said they would need to look into the issues, some of which involved aspects handled by Santa Barbara County departments, and give a report at a future meeting. 

Developer Gavin Moores also said he was disappointed to hear the bowling alley project’s fate. 

“I think it does underscore this is a detailed business. It requires a lot of will, a lot of commitment, and as the process passes on, it requires a lot of money that’s really invested in the community,” he said.

“Carol went through a lot, and I kind of feel for her. I really do,” Moores added.

On Friday, she said her decision was final, and that a new sign advertising the site for sale would soon stand on the land.

Architect Michael Holliday from DMHA Architecture + Interior Design,said he remained hopeful the project would move forward with a new owner, noting it would be a valuable community resource for the entire valley. 

“Carol Peterson and her entire family team have been an amazing source of inspiration for this project. We are honored to have worked with her and the city of Buellton to bring the significant project to this point in the process, and are excited to continue on with the new owners to see the complex fully realized,” Holliday added.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.