Surf shops, restaurants, beach access, and maybe marijuana.
The Santa Barbara County Planning Commission voted Wednesday to allow a Santa Claus Lane cannabis dispensary. Commissioners made the decision after hearing from residents and business and property owners vehemently opposing the project.
“It’s tough to be on the fence, especially when you see merit on both sides,” Commissioner John Parke said, adding that he wants the county Board of Supervisors “to have the most open possible minds about this” when the permit inevitably gets heard on appeal there.
The commissioners voted 4-1 to deny the appeal and approve the project, with Mike Cooney dissenting.
The Roots Dispensary at 3823 Santa Claus Lane was one of the six operators allowed to apply for a county permit last year. The dispensary applicants and owners include Pat and Maire Radis, the property owners, and people associated with the Roots chain of dispensaries, which has a Lompoc location.
Planning staff approved the permit, and that was appealed by Steve Kent and Nancy Rikalo, who own Santa Claus Lane properties including the Padaro Beach Village shops and restaurants.
They and their attorney, Jana Zimmer, argued that the dispensary is inappropriate for the area because of the family-friendly nature of the local businesses and beach. They also argued that the surf shops’ surf schools should count as youth centers, which would invalidate the dispensary location.
“Neighborhood compatibility should be a core factor in your decision today,” Kent said.
Community members have opposed this dispensary location since it was announced, Rikalo said. They signed petitions and voiced their concerns to the county during outreach meetings.
“We objected. We were ignored,” she said.
One of the main appeal issues was the dispensary’s impact on traffic and already-crowded parking along Santa Claus Lane. The building has 12 on-site spaces, and six of them would be dedicated specifically to dispensary employees and customers, according to the county.
When the permit was approved, the county zoning administrator reduced the operating hours to 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. from the proposed 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. to reduce the “intensity of use,” according to planning staff. However, the Planning Commission majority voted Wednesday to reinstate the 12-hour day that the dispensary owners requested.
County staff said a parking and traffic analysis shows the project meets all requirements and surf schools do not count as youth centers.
The Board of Supervisors specifically removed Montecito commercial areas from consideration for a dispensary, which was a point of contention in Zimmer’s presentation.
The county selection process allowed one dispensary in commercial zones of the Summerland and Toro Canyon community plan areas, which basically only includes parts of Lillie Avenue and Santa Claus Lane.
No one applied for a dispensary permit in Summerland at all. The only two applicants were next door to each other on the 3800 block of Santa Claus Lane.
Nearby residents and business owners opposed the project during public comment with concerns about security, traffic and parking impacts to the entire street, and going against the family-friendly beach atmosphere of the area.
Sam Holcombe of A Frame Surf Shop said he considers the Radis family as friends but thinks this location is inappropriate for a dispensary because of the traffic and the family-focused businesses.
“You would not put a liquor store here, so why would you put a cannabis store here?” Kaye Walters of the Padaro Association said.
She said the area has borne the brunt of bad county decisions related to cannabis, such as the odor from nearby farms.
“Won’t you please listen to us this time?” she said.
Peter Dugre, a representative of CARP Growers cannabis businesses, said the location will be a huge draw for customers to get local products.
Because of restrictions in nearby cities, it would be the only dispensary between Santa Barbara and Oxnard, according to multiple speakers.
The county Planning Commission has heard dozens of cannabis-related appeals, mostly for cultivation projects, and recently rejected the appeal of an Orcutt dispensary.
In 2019, commissioners denied a cannabis delivery permit in Old Town Orcutt, saying the business was inappropriate for the location.
— Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.