Council also gives the go-ahead to prepare traffic study for Caltrans

By Mike Chaldu

The Buellton City Council had its regular meeting on Thursday, Feb. 22, and during it got the process rolling on possibly getting an amended Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) on the November ballot.

The UGB was one of two business items on the agenda for the meeting.

An Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) is a concept that separates urban areas from the surrounding natural and agricultural lands, or greenbelts. It puts a limit on how far out the city can expand. 

In giving the presentation to council for the UGB, City Manager Scott Wolfe noted that it was identical to Buellton’s city limits, which isn’t usually the case for a city. He added that the city’s sphere of influence, which identifies areas outside of city limits which may at one point receive municipal services from the city, is also the same as city limits, which means the city cannot offer services past its limits.

“This UGB was established by voters in 2008 and can only be amended by voters,” Wolfe said. “However, the initiative expires on Dec. 31, 2025, and we only have one election left until then, in November, and we need to get an extension or an amended one on the ballot, or it’s going to expire.”

Wolfe proposed putting on the ballot an amended UGB with a sphere of influence expanded in three areas: past the west boundary of the city farther out on Highway 246 and its environs, north of the city boundary along Highway 101; and the east of town, in an area east of McMurray Road.

The city manager said his presentation was the first step in a compact schedule meant to get an amended UGB on the ballot, having the “phases” outlined with Phase 2, a workshop during the city’s Planning Commission meeting on March 21; another workshop in the City Council meeting on April 25; and the UGB ballot initiative to be put before the City Council at its May 23 meeting in order to get it on the November ballot.

In council’s comments and questions, Councilmember Hudson Hornick had a few questions and concerns, among them whether the proposed SOI would open the door to overdevelopment and whether a proposed Southern expansion would threatened the trail easements the council had established. Wolfe said there’s the potential for overdevelopment, but it usually doesn’t work that way and the trail easements would not be threatened.

Vice-Mayor David Silva expressed concern whether the expanded Sphere of Influence area would be able to accomodate the city’s modest regional housing allocation numbers, and Wolfe assured him it would.

“So what I see here it’s the density vs. sprawl discussion, we have this and wait for the state to blink, which they never do,” Silva said, “but this is something that gives some say, and not having to do Builder’s Remedy.”

“It makes thing a little more flexible for us.”

After discussion, no motion was taken as a council vote isn’t planned until the May 23 meeting.

The second item had to do with Authorization of Contract Extension with KOA to Prepare Caltrans Traffic Study

Wolfe said the city had been working with a business called KOA Crane to prepare a traffic study for Caltrans, proposing a ‘Skinny 246’ plan to narrow the roads and put in medians, bike lanes, and other “traffic-calming” measures. 

The city manager said they had already agreed with KOA Crane on a contract for $56,000, and said the study would be a means to get Caltrans to do other work in the Valley, and recommends that the council approve it.

Councilmember Elysia Lewis was concerned about how long it might take, but Wolfe assured her it would only be a few months, and hoped to be seeking grants by summer.

After hearing that Caltrans would have no involvement with the study, Councilmember John Sanchez asked if it was possible for the city to do all this work getting the study, and for Caltrans to say no to their requests.

“That is a possibility,” Wolfe said. “But I think if Caltrans sees we made the effort to put this together, they be more receptive to us.”

Mayor Dave King agreed with that sentiment.

“This survey is on our time; we can put it together, and I believe Caltrans will partner with us,” he said.

Lewis moved to approve the study, and it passed by a 5-0 vote.

The next Buellton City Council meeting will be March 14.