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No action taken by SB County Supervisors on Hoop Ordinance

Plastic hoop structures are popping up on farm fields across Santa Barbara County as an increasingly popular method to grow a variety of crops including various types of berries and cannabis.

Some say the hoops are a vital cultivation tool for Santa Barbara County’s leading agriculture industry, others say they’re an eyesore on the landscape and should be regulated by the county’s rigorous planning review and permit process.

Last year the County Board of Supervisors voted to approve an ordinance that exempts hoop structures 20 feet tall or less along with other permitting options.

The Board has been waiting for the proposed ordinance to go through the planning and environmental review process and come back for adoption.

Meeting Tuesday morning in Santa Maria, Supervisors were told the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) on the ordinance failed to include specific instructions given to county planning staff from the Board and should go back for further review before the County Planning Commission.

“The Board creates policy and the staff executes it”, said Fourth District Supervisor Peter Adam who requested the proposed hoops ordinance be placed on Tuesday’s Board Agenda, “in this case, and I didn’t vote for this thing, but just as a policy matter, the question is do we give direction and have it followed or does staff run off and do something other than what we asked them to do?”

Sending the proposed ordinance back to the Planning Commission means further delay in regulating the use of hoop structures as demand for them in agriculture keeps rising.

“These things are prolific throughout our county and all of them right now are un-permitted and there’s really nothing that kind of controls them”, said Fifth District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino, “we’re also trying to permit cannabis operations that use hoops and if you have a hoop, I don’t understand how you would be able to get permitted.”

Those who spoke before the Board urged patience in passing the hoops ordinance.

“Send this back to staff, ask staff to talk with the Agricultural Advisory Committee, perhaps the Planning Commission”, said Chip Wullbrandt representing berry growing giant Driscoll’s, “then if you all want to have hoop structures of whatever height, wherever, then figure out the regulation for that.”

Other speakers urged the Board to move forward with the ordinance arguing hoop structures are not building improvements to be approved and permitted by the county.

“Hoop apparatus’ are simpy another tool or farming implement for the growing of plants”, said local land use consultant Lisa Bedroggi of Cuvee Creations, “practically speaking hoops only serve to elevate the covering above plants to improve plant growth and resource efficiencies.”

“We recommend that you take a preemptive action and not send this back to the Planning Commission for further deliberation and consideration of re-circulating the EIR”, Bedroggi said, “prepare the findings that hoops are not a regulated activity on their own.”

The Hoops Ordinance will go to the County Planning Commission in November and could come back to the Board of Supervisors in December for further action.

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