Project includes modernization of structures, landscaping and redirecting traffic
A new proposal for cannabis cultivation is making its way through Santa Barbara County’s planning and development pipeline. The 13.66 acre property located at 3861 Foothill Road is owned by Rene Van Wingerden and leased to Cresco California. In addition to being the landlord, Van Wingerden is also a partner and board member for Cresco’s Carpinteria Valley operation.
Cresco is based in Chicago and acquired a majority stake in SLO Cultivation, the existing marijuana cultivation facility on Wingerden’s property, in June 2018. Cresco’s current cannabis cultivation in Carpinteria operates with a temporary permit from the county for legal-nonconforming use.
In the new proposal, Cresco is requesting coastal development and minor conditional use permits to develop and operate a cannabis cultivation facility.
The project includes the demolition of three existing greenhouses, built in the 1950s, which are 40,700 sq ft each and were most recently used for growing cut flowers.
Cresco proposes to replace the existing greenhouses with a purpose-built processing building and a state-of-the-art greenhouse addition. The new greenhouse space will be just under 58,400 sq ft and the new packing, processing and support facility will be around 25,000 sq ft.
Additionally, the plan includes 71 onsite parking spaces, an expansion of the site’s stormwater detention basin system, the removal of 12 prefabricated containers and improvements to the property’s irrigation recycling and fertigation equipment, septic waste disposal systems, placement of cannabis waste storage containers and landscaping. The proposal would maintain the existing 264,000 sq ft modern greenhouse that was built within the last 15 years.
“The goal of the current plan is to design a project that can’t be seen or smelled and is compatible with the surrounding neighborhood,” said Sabrina Noah, Cresco’s senior vice president, who lives in Santa Barbara. “(The proposal) will allow us to use the best available control technology for odor mitigation . . . and to consolidate administrative and support functions into a much smaller footprint.”
While Cresco’s proposal adds up to more buildings, including a second story to its main hub, the plan is a 39,000 sq ft reduction to the total footprint of buildings and development on the property. The architect for the project is Scott Branch of BBP Architecture, based in Santa Barbara.
If the project is approved and the land use permits issued, Cresco would move its cannabis production into the large existing greenhouse that is now empty (and was most recently used to grow cut flowers). Currently, the company is cultivating cannabis on 122,100 sq ft. With the move, Cresco would be cultivating across roughly 323,000 sq ft of greenhouse space.
Cannabis odor mitigation for the proposed project includes equipping the site with “the leading odor neutralizing technology currently available to prevent odors from drifting off-site,” according to SCS Engineers, who have been contracted by Cresco for site development. This comprehensive odor management will include the dry-vapor phase system developed and operated by Byers Scientific & Manufacturing. In addition, the new packhouse/processing structure will have a carbon filtration system.
The project has now received conceptual review by the county’s South Board of Architectural Review (SBAR) and, once the application is deemed complete, a public hearing will be scheduled for the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission. At its most recent SBAR conceptual review hearing last month, a handful of the property’s neighbors voiced concern that what Cresco was proposing was not a good fit for the area.
Among the project’s vocal opponents is former Carpinteria Unified School Board Trustee Maureen Foley Claffey, who wrote a letter to the board urging them to reject Cresco’s proposal. “For reference, I am the direct adjacent avocado farm and residential neighbor to this site and our family (Foleys and Bailards, as in Bailard Avenue) have farmed here since the 1940s and in Carpinteria Valley since the 1860s,” she wrote.
In her statement, Foley Claffey stated that “this gigantic industrial building is the wrong project at the wrong place at the wrong time, regardless of any building improvements,” noting that the area is zoned for agriculture, not industrial use.
Foley Claffey also stated that the site is in an environmentally sensitive habitat, a historic flood plain adjacent to Arroyo Paredon. “This is an environmental disaster waiting to happen,” she wrote. Additionally, Foley Claffey raised questions about safety, overflow parking and traffic jams.
Cresco claims however that the proposal would be an improvement on these fronts. “Our project has been carefully developed by qualified architects and biologists,” stated Noah. “We will be rebuffering the landscape with native plants . . . I can assure you that all of these chemicals have been reviewed by a qualified biologist and landscape architect. We are not disturbing or removing any plants. We are going to improve the landscape, adding native species, regenerating and improving that entire corridor (near Arroyo Paredon).”
“We are shifting primary access for traffic from Foothill Road to Via Real. We are taking cars off of Foothill and we are making the farm smaller than it was previously.”
At least two neighbors have offered public support to Cresco. In a letter signed by Whitney Abbott and Murray McTigue, the pair write, “As neighbors directly adjacent to the property, we have a good relationship with Cresco. We have mutual respect for each other’s farming practices. We have never had issues with visual design, odor control or unnecessary traffic. Cresco has been very communicative and has reached out to inform us of any changes to their operation which might have any impact on our farm.”
The proposed development by Cresco on Foothill Road is expected to be in front of the county’s Planning Commission in the next few months.