May 21, 2022

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The Car & Automotive Devotees

County Planning Commission Denies Appeals of Orcutt Gas Station Plan Despite Concerns About Traffic | Local News

3 min read

The Santa Barbara County Planning Commission rejected appeals of a gas station proposed for what one neighbor called a dangerous and chaotic intersection.

Citing traffic concerns and rules to place utility lines underground, Far Western Liquors and PR Investments appealed the zoning administrator’s approval of the Orcutt gas station proposed by Lama Fadel for the southeast corner of Orcutt and Lakeview roads.

On Wednesday, the planning commissioners unanimously approved several items to allow the gas station and convenience store to proceed despite concerns about traffic at the intersection. 

The now-empty lot also sits just east of the intersections of Lakeview Road, Skyway Drive and Highway 135.

Previously home to a gas station until the late 1990s, the site would become a 5,000-square-foot building and four fuel dispensers under a 3,000-square-foot canopy.

Complicating the issue is that the county owns some of the roads in the area. Caltrans is responsible for Highway 135, and Skyway Drive belongs to the City of Santa Maria.

Fifth District Commissioner Dan Blough, who called it the worst intersection he travels through, said discussions have occurred with the state and city about changing the layout to just one lane for drivers going across Highway 135 onto Lakeview. That would include adding more turn lanes for traffic going onto Highway 135.

Currently, there are two lanes heading straight onto Lakeview, with the short lane for merging traffic the focus of concern.

“I think that will substantially improve the traffic flow going in there,” Blough said. 

Another condition would limit left turns from Orcutt Road during peak hours, which concerned Blough.

“I’m not the least bit interested in creating any traffic situation to where we have road rage,” Blough said. 

Chairman Larry Ferini said he believed county Public Works Department staff would monitor conditions at the intersection.

“They have a high level of awareness that things need to be done. I would hate to tie their hands at this time. I would like to follow their recommendations,” Ferini said. 

The county will be working with the State of California and the City of Santa Maria to implement improvements.

“All these government things are delicate matters. … I’d like them to work together on it and hopefully bolster their relationships as they’re all involved in that little segment of the community,” Ferini said. 

Other discussion on Wednesday centered on a county requirement to put utility lines underground as required by county policy unless doing so would be underground or unless it would be impractical or infeasible. 

But talks about placing utility lines underground stalled amid reports that Caltrans would not allow the project to involve Highway 135.

Instead, staff and commissioners discussed what to do with one of the three poles at the development site since wires could not go under Highway 135. 

“In short, the decision of the planning commission today is either waive or not to waive the under-grounding requirements,” said Jeffrey Wilson, assistant director of the county Planning and Development Department

The final location of the pole connecting utility lines with those west of Highway 135 would be decided by the county public works director, not planning commissioners, Wilson said. 

“That works for me. I’m happy with that solution,” Blough said. 

“I think it’s what we were all looking for, to keep public works involved in that. They know the best,” Ferini said, adding that public works staff knows where rights of way are located.  

Discussions had centered on whether to relocate the pole to county property between Highway 135 and Orcutt Road or keep it on site at the gas station property.

— Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.