By Raiza Giorgi
In a joint session of the Buellton City Council and Planning Commission, members were briefed on general plan recommendations to update city ordinances pertaining to land use, permitting fees, social equity and traffic circulation. The virtual meeting took place on Wednesday, Feb. 24, and council members and commissioners gave direction to staff on those issues.
The presentation was made by Irma Tucker, the city’s contracted planner along with staff in the planning department.
“The two goals are to inform city decision makers on assessments on current policies and achievements accomplished since the last land use update back in 2007/08,” Tucker said.
Since that time, the city has updated design guidelines to enhance the agrarian section and include art deco and other requirements from Avenue of Flags Specific Plan and Affordable Housing.
Tucker also said some of the fees structures haven’t been updated since 1995 and need to be brought up to date, especially developer fees.
Planning staff also said some zoning changes might be needed to reflect the actual use and adding in more opportunities to identify good areas for community gardens, farmers markets and recreational paths.
The city has also seen much growth since 2004, especially in multifamily units and industrial or commercial spaces.
“The social equity portion really identifies the need for affordable housing for low income and very low income residents, identifying potential Disadvantaged Communities or DAC’s, but Buellton really doesn’t have much,” Tucker said.
Tucker said they must make sure that people are not linguistically isolated and identify mobility issues and availability of access to parks and recreation facilities.
“I really think that Buellton is making good strides on getting information out in Spanish as well as having translation services available,” said Mayor Holly Sierra during council comments. “We also have great transportation with almost round the clock busing available.”
The council and commissioners also listened to the circulation element of the update looking at greenhouse gas emissions, traffic and policies regarding that.
“There are lots of different studies we are looking at for the circulation element,” said Rose Hess, city engineer. “We reviewed traffic volumes and collision data from vehicle vs. pedestrian and vehicle vs. vehicle. A lot of this centers around Highway 246, which is Caltrans jurisdiction.”
Hess said they must look at impacts of traffic to projects and multiple perspectives.
“We also want to look at traffic calming measures to ensure safety for all modes of transportation,” she said. “We need to look at features to modify Highway 246 especially on west end to redesign to much more community friendly for what Buellton would like.”
According to Hess, the Highway 101 corridor would need to be looked at to incorporate into Village Specific Plan and Avenue of Flags. Parking policies also need to be updated for parking on street, off street, recreational vehicles and long-term storage.
“All the truck traffic that comes in, vacationers with RV’s short term and looking for partnerships to take care of those visitors as well,” she said.
Pedestrian circulation is being looked at and enhancing overpasses over Highway 101 are more feasible with Caltrans as far as improvements, Hess added.
Damassa Road from Avenue of Flags to McMurray is also being replaced with Rufus T. Buell Drive, and signage needs to be replaced.
Hess also brought up working with Santa Barbara County and Solvang to create a secondary bypass between the two cities. Widening the existing lanes are not recommended other than provisions for bicycle lanes.
Another roadway connection behind Albertson’s is being looked at as well to alleviate the bottlenecking at Highway 246 at McMurray Road.
“The circulation element is more comprehensive,” said City Manager Scott Wolfe.
“This city is relatively well built out, and not a lot of room left to build things. There are a number of policy revisions proposed due to shifts in city priorities looking at the future and development. It has shifted and needs to be readdressed.”
Other points made: Some policies enhance bicycle and pedestrian access along major roads and bicycle racks should be encouraged as facility improvements. Also, identifying a place for banners and signs for city events and programs is a consideration.
To watch the full meeting visit the Buellton’s YouTube page at www.youtube.com/watch?v=xKusNaVIGBE.