Buellton City Council to review ‘Vision Plan’

Economic development, one of the top goals in Buellton’s “Vision Plan,” will be the subject of an upcoming agenda item before the City Council as part of a comprehensive review of the document.

Unanimously accepted in February 2012, the plan is the result of the city’s two-year-long “visioning process,” a public-participation review of the municipal urban design plan, mixed-use regulations and zoning ordinances, as well as discussion of potential funding for future development.

A guide for the city’s future, the plan contains eight goals and associated objectives and action items for implementation.

Key goals identified by the community during the visioning process include “branding” of the city, maintaining healthy living programs and arts and culture opportunities, following planning and design principles, creating a vibrant downtown, promoting environmental sustainability, and developing an economic development plan.

Throughout the long process, the vision plan was revised by a visioning steering committee composed of residents, local business people and other stakeholders, and various subcommittees to prioritize and refine the implementation plan.

In the coming months, council members are expected to focus on one objective at a time, beginning with economic development as suggested by Mayor Judith Dale.

“Each goal deserves one meeting,” Dale said last week during a vision plan progress report by City Manager Marc Bierdzinski.

Councilwoman Holly Sierra agreed.

“I think it’s a great idea,” she said, and noted some of the action items have been accomplished.

A meeting date for the discussion, anticipated to include the city’s contracted economic development services firm, has yet to be set.

The agenda staff report by Bierdzinski that was presented to the council at a meeting Sept. 26 included a status report on action items from the vision plan.

Action items either completed or in progress include adoption of a pedestrian and bikeway master plan; adoption of a mixed-use ordinance containing live-work units in all commercial and industrial zones; Planning Commission review of community design guidelines; modifications to several sections of the sign ordinance; completion of a traffic and land-use study centered on the Avenue of Flags between Highway 101 on the north and Highway 246 on the south; and revisions to the city’s website.

To come up with a strategy for attracting new and relocated businesses, the city entered a $60,000 contract this summer for economic development services with Los Angeles-based Kosmont Companies.

Ken Hira, the Kosmont senior vice president, presented a briefing on progress to date on the economic development strategy and implementation plan.

Broken into three segments, analysis, strategy and implementation, the plan outlines the city’s economic and demographic profile and market demand.

Among the findings, more people come into the city to work than go out of the city to work, Hira said, a net of about 604 people. Also, at $26,500, Buellton had the county’s highest retail sales per capita in 2012. The county average is $9,900.

Strengths of the city are its location at crossroads of highway 101 and 246, high household incomes with low unemployment and the large visitor population to Santa Ynez Valley, in part to the wine industry.

Weaknesses include a relatively low population density, about 5,000 residents, and an existing lack of retailers, particularly downtown.

Buellton has the tools to push economic development forward, however, the pace is a marathon not a sprint, Hira said.

“These things don’t happen overnight,” he said.

The 94-page document is at www.cityofbuellton.com under “Public Visioning” on the Planning Department page.