To the Editor:
On Friday, March 19 at 9 a.m. there will be a Special Meeting of the Planning Commission which will be discussing and making recommendations to the Board of Supervisors on a proposed new cannabis cultivation ordinance: the “Commercial Cannabis Activity Land Use Ordinance”. Agenda item: 6B.
The Board of Supervisors is rushing this proposal forward so that they can take advantage of a regulation that allows the County to pass a Cannabis Cultivation Ordinance without environmental review (CEQA) until July 1 of this year.
We would like your help…..
What is at stake?
The Board of Supervisors are proposing replacing our hard-won ordinance with a use permit process. This will leave all of the decisions of where, how much, and under what conditions to allow Cannabis operations to the discretion of Planning Department staff.
This will eliminate the following protections we have in place with our existing ordinance:
A prohibition on new operations on the County’s Rangeland Zone.
A cap on the size of the grow sites of 10,000 sq. ft. per permit
A 2 permits per parcel limitation
Protections against tree removal
A generator phase out timeline
Protections against light pollution.
Instead of strengthening our ordinance, this new proposal will eliminate all of these protections and it will allow for a massive expansion of the size and number of cannabis grows in the county, including large commercial grows through a Use Permit process. Use Permits are issued for a minimum of 10 years with indefinite renewals and accompany the property regardless of the owner. Historically Use Permits in this county are rarely, if ever, monitored by county staff.
Of particular concern is the provision that would open all of our Rangelands to development, and allow up to 10 percent of a parcel 10 acres or more in the Ag, Upland Residential, and Rangeland zones to be converted to cannabis. For example, a 160-acre parcel could have sixteen acres of Cannabis which will be destructive to the small family grower, and it will not be environmentally sustainable.
The Farm Bureau does not support this new proposal, the small cannabis grower does not support it, our Sheriff does not support it, and the environmental community does not support it. And this new proposal is NOT the Vision supported by the majority of citizens of this county, as evidenced by the fact that Measure AF, which proposed cannabis in almost every zoning district, went down to defeat in 2016.
This proposal wholly ignores the recommendations of the Mendocino Climate Action Committee regarding appropriate land use development to meet the need for greenhouse gas reduction and carbon sequestration goals.
It also ignores the goals of our new federal administration which is calling for 30% of our lands to be set aside to try to stem the collapse of our wildlife population from climate change. If we were to continue preserving our Rangelands we would be able to meet that 30 percent goal.
If we hope to have even a semblance of a salmon fishery again we will have to have cool running streams and rivers. Not the hot, shallow, and algae-choked rivers we are seeing now across our county. Our water has already been over-allocated if we hope to meet the challenges of climate change in the years ahead, and unfortunately, Cannabis likes a lot of water and a lot of fertilizer.
Also, there is no proposed funding for a remedy to the spectacular failure of the citizen-driven complaint system of enforcement that we have now. The County does not have the budget, the staff, or the track record to responsibly invite a big expansion of cannabis operations at this time.
A change of this scale should be broadly and openly discussed with the community, not sprung on the public and even some board members over the course of a weekend – making a mockery of our local democracy. And considering the magnitude of the expansion plan, the County, at the very least, should do a full Environmental Impact Review (EIR).
What can be done?
If you aren’t happy with what’s going on with the Cannabis Industry in this county then please let the Planning Commission and the Supervisors know now.
Reference the agenda item 6B in your letters.
The Planning Commission email: pbs.mendocinocounty.org
The Board of Supervisor email: firstname.lastname@example.org
-Ellen Drell, Willits Environmental Center and Sheila Jenkins, County Resident