For several years, the Old Town Orcutt Revitalization Association (OTORA) has been working hard to build a no-cost public parking lot for consumers, business employees and visitors to Old Town Orcutt.

A public parking lot is essential to the future growth of the Old Town commercial district. OTORA has identified and secured an ideal location for a parking lot. However, antiquated zoning restrictions have led county Planning and Development to reject our plans.

Old Town Orcutt has become the cultural center and the crown jewel of the Santa Maria Valley. Public events such as car shows, chalk art festivals, and Christmas festivities dot the calendar. Retail shopping, wine-tasting and delicious dining are all available to community members in the Clark Avenue commercial corridor. However, some local residents and visitors lament congestion and lack of parking during the busy times of the week and year.

The Orcutt Community Plan, adopted in 1997, addressed planning and development opportunities and concerns for Orcutt, the county’s largest unincorporated area. A primary objective of the OCP was the revitalization of Old Town Orcutt as a viable commercial and mixed-use area while preserving its historic atmosphere and protecting the neighborhood character.

The issue of parking is mentioned several times as a constraint to the development of the commercial core. The document suggests that it is the county’s responsibility to find a place for a parking lot and construct one.

As the primary steward of the Orcutt Community Plan for Old Town Orcutt, OTORA has worked with Phillips 66, the landowner, who has agreed to license us approximately a half-acre located on the corner of Clark Avenue and Marcum Street. The site, which recently had 15,000 cubic yards of oil-contaminated soil remediated, is one block from Old Town’s major intersection. The proposed parking lot will have 75 parking spaces and Phillips 66 will be letting us use it at no cost.

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The problem here is that the lot is zoned for use as a shopping center. Somehow, according to county Planning and Development staff, the shopping center zone does not allow for the construction of a stand-alone parking lot. We were told a parking lot could only be built if a commercial building was also constructed.

We have a hearing scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 8 at 9 a.m., at the Betteravia Government Center to reconsider Planning and Development staffs’ decision to reject our parking lot application. Our goal is to convince a majority of the Planning Commission that a parking lot should be considered a practical use and necessary component within the shopping center zone, and that the Orcutt Community Plan policies supersede the zoning designation.

We strongly encourage like-minded community members who see the need for a public parking lot in Old Town Orcutt to join us at the hearing and show their support. In-lieu of attending the hearing, supporters can sign the petition located in Old Town businesses or write or e-mail the Planning Commission care of: David Villalobos, board assistant supervisor, Planning and Development Department Hearing Support, 123 E. Anapamu St., Santa Barbara, CA 93101. Email: dvillalo@co.santa-barbara.ca.us

Brett Krause is a Santa Maria financial advisor.

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