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041916 Lompoc Council (copy)

In this April 19, 2016 file photo, Lompoc City Councilman Dirk Starbuck, left, looks on as Mayor Bob Lingl raises a question at council meeting. The council heard concerns about drones from residents at that meeting and followed up on those concerns by discussing a possible drone ordinance on Tuesday.

The Lompoc City Council moved ahead with the early stages of a drone ordinance Tuesday and also retroactively eliminated a water fee program in an effort to boost economic development in the city’s Old Town area.

Tuesday’s meeting, which lasted a little more than two hours, also included an update on the recent Lake Cachuma water release.

The discussion on the potential drone ordinance was spurred by a complaint from Lompoc resident Dave Marston at the council’s April 19 meeting. Marston, at that April meeting, said he was concerned about a neighbor flying a drone over his home and possibly recording video and/or taking photos of his yard and the inside of his home through windows.

On Tuesday, City Manager Patrick Wiemiller introduced a draft of an ordinance that was created after meetings with Lompoc Police Chief Pat Walsh, the city attorney and members of city staff.

Although members of the council and some members of the public, including Marston, took issue with some of the items that were either included in or left out of the ordinance, the council agreed to have city staff continue to develop the ordinance with input from community members before bringing it back at a later date for another reading.

That motion, which was made by Councilman Dirk Starbuck, passed 5-0.

During council discussion, Mayor Bob Lingl said he was hopeful for the success of Senate Bill 868, which was authored by Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson to provide a statewide regulation for the operation of unmanned aircraft. If that bill passed, Lingl said, it would eliminate the need for a city ordinance.

Jackson’s bill failed passage in a committee, however, and will not likely be reconsidered for approval until next year at the earliest.

In light of that, Lingl suggested that the city focus on educating the public about drones before adopting an ordinance.

“Let’s start there and get some education out there,” he said.

“There’s some good with these drones that we can see.”

Lingl’s suggestion was ultimately overtaken by Starbuck’s motion, which he said should include education as part of the ordinance-drafting process.

In other action Tuesday, the council voted unanimously to suspend the collection of Water Retrofit Fees and offset measures to renovations and development of properties that are zoned Old Town Commercial.

That action came about as a result of Solvang Brewing Company’s move into a long-abandoned downtown property. The brewery is planning to use significantly more water than the previous occupants of the property and would have been hit with fees totaling $9,306 under the retrofit system that was initially developed by the city in 1990.

City staff said this was an undue burden on a company that it views as part of a downtown revitalization effort and asked that council retroactively remove those fees going back to November 2015, which is when Solvang Brewing Company initially pulled its permits with the city.

The suspension of the fees will not impact current water customers, according to city staff, which added in its report that the changes will not only help Solvang Brewing Company, but also will “encourage more creation of business and renovation within Old Town.”

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The staff recommendation passed 4-0. Starbuck recused himself from the vote because he owns property in the affected area.

Early in Tuesday’s meeting, the council was also presented with an update on the Lake Cachuma water release.

Water from the July 12 release reached the Lompoc area Aug. 3. Gene Margheim, Lompoc’s water supervisor, said Tuesday that the city has received about 1,200 acre-feet of water from the release. It is estimated that Lompoc will receive only 2,000 acre-feet total, he said. (An acre-foot is about 326,000 gallons, or the amount of water generally needed to supply the annual needs of four to 10 people in an urban environment.)

That total amount is well below the 4,555 acre-feet that Lompoc had banked in Lake Cachuma before the release.

“Unfortunately, because of the conditions of the lake being really low of water, we’re only gonna get about 2,000 acre-feet total for this release,” Margheim said.

The releases, which are typically done every three years, are meant to replenish the city’s groundwater basin. Past releases have provided about three years' worth of groundwater, Margheim said, but this year’s is estimated to provide about six months’ worth.

The council’s next regular meeting is scheduled for Sept. 6.

Willis Jacobson covers the city of Lompoc for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @WJacobsonLR.