San Luis Obispo County planning commissioners are looking to weigh in on county rules dictating a host of previously unregulated activities, including zip lines, bungee jumping, and giant swings.
On Jan. 26, the commission will be asked to make an interpretation on the county’s rural recreation and camping land use definition after county planning officials were caught off guard by a zip line operation at the Santa Margarita Ranch, and in anticipation of a giant swing rig elsewhere in the county, as well as BMX and mountain bike courses.
“It’s been kind of all over the place, and they just all came in at once; it was very strange,” Assistant Planning Director Kami Griffin said of the requests her department has received.
In a staff report to planning commissioners, the Department of Planning and Building wrote: “Recently, it has come to the department’s attention that the range of ag-tourism, eco-tourism, and outdoor rural recreation uses in the county is broadening beyond what is currently defined in our land-use ordinance.”
Margarita Adventures, LLC, recently opened zip-line tours at the Santa Margarita Ranch, and local officials don’t quite know what to do with it. Such a use isn’t defined under the county land-use ordinance, which was written in 1980. Karl Wittstrom, one of the owners of Santa Margarita Ranch, LLC, told New Times his company approached the county with plans to develop an agriculture tourism operation on the ranch, which would include canopy tours.
“There were really no provisions in any of the land-use ordinances,” Wittstrom said.
The zip-line operation at the ranch complies with safety standards self-imposed by similar operations, Wittstrom added. It’s the first and only such operation in the county. There are similar zip-line courses in the Santa Cruz mountains and on Catalina Island, Wittstrom said, with the possibility of a new operation in Monterey County.
County planners, however, will ask the planning commission to interpret and possibly broaden the current land-use rules to incorporate such uses. Commissioners could decide to take actions ranging from including zip lines and other outdoor activities into the existing definitions to creating new standards—or something more stringent. Their recommendation will go to the Board of Supervisors for a final decision.