Keep urban recreation within the city

On Feb. 11, the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors will consider a Planning Commission recommendation to deny a rezoning request and conditional-use permit for an illegal conversion of farmland to public recreational uses, which consists of a 1.5-acre paintball field, a half-acre track for remote-control cars, and a 4.5-acre soccer field.

These facilities were developed between 2006-2011 along Highway 246 across the Santa Ynez River from Lompoc. The property is zoned for agriculture. Some of it is prime soil, and is adjacent to highly productive agricultural land. Some of the facilities were developed earlier, but according to the county’s analysis of aerial photographs, active cultivation of the rest of the property ceased in 2009, and the soccer fields were constructed in 2010. Only after a zoning violation complaint did the owner apply for the rezone and conditional-use permit.

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Carpool lane on 101 should move forward

Thirty years ago, the biggest Central Coast bottleneck on Highway 101 was the section through Santa Barbara, with its notorious traffic lights.

After the cross-town freeway was built in the mid-1980s, the main bottleneck was the four-lane section from Santa Barbara to Goleta. After that section was widened to six lanes and to this day, the biggest bottleneck is the four-lane section from Ventura County through Carpinteria and Montecito to Santa Barbara.

Over the last 20-plus years, plans have been in the works to widen that section to six lanes. As the project evolved, many residents and community groups urged that it not be a simple freeway widening that would just bring more traffic. In response to those concerns, the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments (SBCAG) determined the additional lanes would be designated for high-occupancy vehicles during the morning and evening rush hours.

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Oil company should thank county supervisors

Santa Maria Energy won approval from the Board of Supervisors to extract oil from 136 wells in the Orcutt Hills. Yet, you'd think the project had been denied.

The company got its project. The number of wells was not reduced. The amount of oil they could extract was not changed. They weren't even required to do no harm. They were, however, required to reduce their greenhouse-gas emissions further than they wanted, which meant they would make less profit. They still stand to make millions of dollars mining a non-renewable local natural resource. A denial, no doubt, would have cost them millions.

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Economy, environment go hand-in-hand

Last week, the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors upheld the appeal of the Planning Commission's approval of the Santa Maria Energy project, setting tougher standards for greenhouse-gas emissions.

As one of the appellants, the reader might expect that I came home and popped open the champagne. I didn't. Instead, I've been giving thought to next steps and reflecting on all the heartfelt comments I heard from 110 concerned residents of our region.

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Using people as a buffer not a good idea

Santa Maria planning commissioners said “no” to new senior housing and “yes” to employment-generating land-use designations in a recent straw poll.

In an informal request by Coastal Community Builders, commissioners were asked whether they would be in favor of changing the zoning on part of Area 9, a total of 884 acres between A Street and Black Road, and between Betteravia Road and the railroad tracks.

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Answering questions about climate change

Human-caused climate change - myth or reality?

Why are we even debating this? And why is it important to us on the Central Coast?

For the past 100 years, scientists have believed that burning fossil fuels might increase Earth's average surface temperature. Decades of research has proven this, according to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), the organization set up by Abraham Lincoln in 1863 to advise the government on science, engineering and medicine. Members serve in the organization only if they have distinguished themselves and continue to conduct original research.

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Implement plan for sustainable communities

Congratulations to the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments for adopting the 2040 Regional Transportation Plan & Sustainable Communities Strategy.

Now, cities and county, we hope you'll follow its principles.

SBCAG recognized how important land-use decisions are, not only to the efficient operation of the transportation system, but also to the environment, public health, safety, social equity and a thriving economy.

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SM Energy: Mitigate, move forward

Santa Maria Energy is champing at the bit to get final approval to expand by 110 wells its 26-well pilot project in the Orcutt Hills.

That stands to reason. The expanded project is expected to produce more than 3,000 barrels of crude oil a day. With prices at around $100 a barrel, there is potential daily gross revenue to the company of over $300,000.

That approval is delayed because the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission directed staff to analyze stricter greenhouse-gas emissions standards for the project, to reduce the impact on climate change.

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The effects of fracking -- a realistic look

            In a recent column, James Murr sounded the alarm about the potential for renewed oil production within the city of Santa Maria. He referenced a Times article about Area 9 being considered for oil development and cited an article in another publication that reported on hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” contaminating aquifers and triggering earthquakes.

            Murr has good reason to be concerned.

            In a letter to the editor, another writer said Murr need not worry because the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (by 2009) had not documented any cases of groundwater contamination related to fracking; there are ample regulations in place to protect our environment from the impacts of oil and gas production; and the Monterey shale underlying the Santa Maria Valley is already naturally fractured.

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Taking part in the process

The recent Times’ editorial, “Help draw blueprint for future,” may have left readers with the impression that local residents are disinterested in the long-range transportation plan prepared by the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments, because just one person came to a recent workshop.

The workshop was, in fact, a public hearing, and was held near the end of a long planning process. Although just one person testified, a total of 11 people attended the hearing.

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Santa Barbara County Action Network
Santa Barbara County Action Network (SBCAN) works to promote social and economic justice, to preserve our environmental and agricultural resources, and to create sustainable communities.