County Releases Paperwork on Hashish Storefront Choices

By Melinda Burns

Following a court order and upon request, the County Executive Office will publish the applications and results lists of the teams that applied for five of the six cannabis pharmacies licensed in the unincorporated Santa Barbara County.

Pharmacy applicants in Los Alamos, Santa Ynez, Isla Vista, Eastern Goleta Valley, and Carpinteria Valley can now submit their own final scores and the preliminary and final scores for their competitors, as well as copies of the competitor’s applications (with company-owned financial and Bailouts) receive information redacted), by email to Brittany Heaton, the county’s lead cannabis analyst [email protected].

Members of the public, Heaton said, can request the same information.

The applications and results lists for Orcutt are not yet released, Heaton said. The district’s selection process for a local cannabis pharmacy has been suspended pending a lawsuit in the Santa Barbara Superior Court.

Lawsuit in Orcutt

The release of documents that had been locked away for months was ordered by Superior Court Judge Colleen Sterne on June 11 in a lawsuit filed by the Natural Healing Center Orcutt 405 against the County Breeder, who last year the Old Town Market at 405 E. Clark St., Orcutt. He hoped to sell cannabis there, but the center failed to make it to the finals of the competition with one point.

On May 21, Sterne issued a preliminary order upholding the district’s assessment methods for the center, which included a review of business operations and neighborhood compatibility. At the same time, the judge ordered the district to forward to the center the results lists and applications of all applicants for cannabis deals except Orcutt, and she was planning another trial on July 23.

At that hearing, the Natural Healing Center will again claim that the district’s assessment was “arbitrary and capricious,” this time with examples from other applications, said Randy Fox, the center’s attorney. All the center needs, he said, is one more point.

“We say we belong in the last group,” said Fox. “In my opinion, the county should have released all applications as soon as they were submitted so the public would know who applied; But they didn’t, so we had to go through the legal process to get them. NHC is lucky because they realized what happened early on and they took their case to the judge. “

The district’s case is, as stated in a court letter dated April 16: “There is no factual or legal basis for re-evaluating NHC’s application and awarding additional points.”

The Natural Healing Center sued the county after its plans for a cannabis dispensary at Orcutt’s Old Town Market, shown here in an artist’s rendering, failed to make it through to the finals of a county competition. (Courtesy photo)

Los Alamos protests

District-wide, 22 teams petitioned for the right to open cannabis dispensaries in unincorporated areas, and eight of the losing applicants, including the Natural Healing Center and Cottonwood Roots in Los Alamos, sent letters of protest after the district released the preliminary ranking in March. said Heaton. Some asked for copies of their rivals’ applications and results lists, she said; They were told that “withholding this information is in the public’s best interest” until the final rankings are released.

“None of the rankings has changed between the preliminary ranking and the final,” said Heaton.

On April 30, the district announced the final ranking for five pharmacy locations at http://cannabis.countyofsb.org/retail.sbc. The best-placed teams have until July 30th to apply for a building permit with the district planning and development department.

One team that filed a scoring protest earlier this year was Cottonwood Roots of Los Alamos, a group that boasted almost unanimously in support of local businesses and put in 120 signatures on letters of support from business owners and residents. The county gave a slightly higher overall score to Haven X LLC, a company with a chain of cannabis dispensaries in Southern California.

The Cottonwood Roots team filed Public Records Act applications with the county on April 2 and again on June 2, and this week finally received copies of their own final game sheet, as well as the game sheet and proposal from Haven.

Austen Connella, the team leader at Cottonwood Roots, a cannabis grower and member of the Central Coast Cannabis Council, a trade association, said it was frustrating not to have received the documents earlier, during the 10-day appeal period, “when we” had an opportunity to do something about it. “

“It looks like Santa Barbara County has decided to do much of the process behind closed doors,” he said. “Los Alamos is so small and dense that it suits us best to have local operators who are really in tune with the community.”

Adrienne Veillette, a resident of Los Alamos and the team’s liaison, said: “We asked for transparency: I think these documents are the bare minimum. We are still in the dark about why we achieved what we did. “

The newly released scoresheets show that Cottonwood Roots scores much better than Haven for neighborhood compatibility and community participation; but much lower when visiting the site.

“This is where the cards fall,” said Heaton. “There has to be a winner, so there was no tie.”

Protest in Santa Claus Street

The county held six “virtual” community workshops last July to review the selection criteria for neighborhood compatibility and business operations of future cannabis businesses. In August, the district supervisory board approved the criteria.

Before the county evaluated applicants for the cannabis business front, Heaton said, “There have been many opportunities for the public to get involved. We have put the names of the applicants with their addresses online, separated according to community plan areas. You could look at a map online and people could make general comments as to why or why a location would be incompatible. “

However, unlike the city of Santa Barbara, the county did not hold public hearings where each pharmacy applicant (in the case of the city, pharmacies and manufacturing and distribution centers) presented their plans, answered questions from county employees, and heard from the public.

Now, on Santa Claus Lane, where one of the county’s six dispensaries is being proposed, business owners are protesting what they see as a deal carried out “out of the public”. They want to know how the district determined the “neighborhood suitability” of a pharmacy next to Padaro Beach in the middle of burger bars, boutiques, surf shops and surf camps for kids.

Last year, Morehart Land Co., owner of Padaro Beach Grill, handed the county board of directors 165 signatures for a petition against a cannabis shop front on Santa Claus Lane last year, citing park congestion and safety concerns.

“Think of Santa Claus with a joint in his mouth,” wrote one resident on the district’s interactive map.

And in a letter to the board last year, Steven Kent and Nancy Rikalo, longtime owners of the largest commercial building on the lane, asked, “Where would the influx of cannabis customers park? … We would literally be overwhelmed. It is simply inconceivable that the chaos and traffic jams would arise. “

“The worst place”

On behalf of Kent and Rikalo, Jana Zimmer, an advisory attorney and former assistant attorney for the Santa Barbara District, says she made three public record requests to find out how the district determined Santa Claus Lane was a suitable location for one Cannabis business, but Montecito, Summerland, Vandenberg Village, and the Cuyama Valley weren’t.

The county considered two applications for cannabis storefronts on Santa Claus Lane. Zimmer said she had requested all the documents showing the county had conducted an analysis of park overflow or the potential impact of a pharmacy on public beach access in the face of competition for parking.

“This is probably the worst place on the south coast to put one,” Zimmer said. “We asked for documents. We have not received any that are relevant to the investigation. It was made completely out of the public eye through an opaque process. There is no evidence that the district took into account the numerous opposition figures they have on file. It’s just ridiculous. “

During a public statement at a hearing on cannabis on June 22, Zimmer called on the board of directors to “suspend the location assessment”: the supervisors did not react.

In an interview, Heaton said it wasn’t the board of directors who selected Santa Claus Lane for a cannabis business. The cannabis industry, she said, “found what it believed to be the best location” in the greater Toro Canyon, Summerland and western Carpinteria Valley, one of the six unincorporated communities selected by the board for a cannabis dispensary.

The Summerland business park is in close proximity to a school; No one applied for a cannabis business front there, Heaton said. Regarding traffic, parking and access to the public beach on Santa Claus Lane, she said, “Many of these concerns and issues are being considered in the permit process.”

Melinda Burns volunteers as a freelance journalist in Santa Barbara doing community service; It offers its news reports to several local publications at the same time free of charge.