A proposed ordinance that would set forth permit requirements and establish permit exemptions for certain hoop and shade structures will come before the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors when it meets Tuesday in Santa Maria.
But the Planning Commission has recommended changes to the initial ordinance drafted by the county staff that would reject two mitigation measures as infeasible, delete two more as not necessary or effective and would modify three others.
Commissioners also recommended adding a slope factor to the criteria used to determine when and where such crop protection structures would be exempt from permit requirements.
Supervisors will consider whether to adopt the ordinance with the Planning Commission’s recommendations or come up with their own provisions at the meeting set for 9 a.m. in the Supervisors Hearing Room of the Joseph Centeno Betteravia Government Administration Building at 511 E. Lakeside Parkway.
Hoop structures are widely used in the county to shelter berries and other crops from the elements, control temperatures and protect crops from dust and moisture.
As temporary agricultural equipment, hoop structures are exempt from building permits under the County Building Code, but the Land Use and Development Code contains conflicting regulations and permits for them only required in Carpinteria Agricultural Overlay Zone.
The structures are also popular with cannabis growers, but many of them have been unable to obtain permits for their cultivation operations because an ordinance regulating hoop structures has not been adopted by supervisors.
Planning and Development Department staff was assigned the task of coming up with a proposed ordinance, but when their draft version was considered by the Planning Commission and other agencies weighed in, a number of changes were recommended.
The originally proposed ordinance would have required a 12-foot height limit, a 75-foot setback from public roads and 400-foot setback from nine unincorporated townships, unless not visible from public areas, in order to qualify for a permit exemption.
Those nine communities were Santa Ynez, Ballard, Los Olivos, Los Alamos, Casmalia, Sisquoc, Garey, Cuyama and New Cuyama.
Planning commissioners rejected those requirements as infeasible, saying they would create an economic burden on growers, lead to farming inefficiencies and result in increased costs for crops.
Commissioners recommended deleting a provision that would not allow the structures with an exemption in a floodway to reduce flooding impacts in areas identified by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, such as the lower reaches of the Santa Ynez River near Lompoc.
Evidence and testimony provided by the Flood Control District indicated having hoop structures in floodways would not cause a significant impact, leading commissioners to decide that mitigation was not needed.
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They also recommended deleting another provision that required a 1-foot gap between the ground and the plastic if they were located within 1.24 miles of a California tiger salamander breeding pond to allow the amphibians free movement.
However, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service consulted with biologists, who unanimously agreed that while not restricting the salamanders’ movement is generally good, in this case the gap would expose them to agricultural hazards.
As a result, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recommended removing the requirement, and the Planning and Development staff and planning commissioners concurred.
The proposed ordinance also set a 4,000-square-foot size limit on hoop structures within the Santa Ynez Valley Design Control Overlay Zone unless they were not visible from public areas and within the Gaviota Coast Plan Critical Viewshed Corridor Overlay Zone.
But commissioners recommended revising those provisions to make 4,000 square feet the permit threshold, so only structures larger than that size would require permits.
As initially written, the ordinance would have limited the permit exemption to “historically intensively cultivated agricultural lands,” that is, within three of the previous five years, to protect biological resources that might exist on grazing and not recently cultivated areas.
Commissioners recommended revising the time frame to one of the previous three years.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials said they could support that revision, but California Fish and Wildlife Service representatives said they could not.
Another of the original provisions would have required a 100-foot setback from streams and creeks in rural areas and 50 feet in urban and inner-rural areas and existing developed rural neighborhoods.
But commissioners recommended reducing the rural area setback to 50 feet, although a 100-foot setback would still apply where required by a community plan.
Lastly, commissioners recommended adding slopes as a criterion for a permit exemption.
Hoop structures on slopes averaging 20 percent or less would be exempt, but those on slopes greater than 20 percent would require permits.
The Planning and Development staff determined the recommended changes would not have additional significant environmental impacts, so supervisors will be asked to certify the final EIR with a revision document, make findings for approval and adopt the ordinance.