Last week, I filled you in on a coalition that I helped form that will be circulating a referendum petition to repeal the 10 percent expansion rule approved on June 2 by the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors, with the exception of 3rd District Supervisor John Haschak who was the sole no vote.
The Expansion Rule allows cultivation to occur on 10 percent of the overall acreage on parcels that are at least 10 acres in size.
We call our group the “Small Is Beautiful Mendocino” coalition.
We believe it’s a fitting name for the referendum also because essentially what’s occurring here is a clash of values and economic models between most County voters and the Board of Supervisors. Most residents favor keeping cultivation on a much smaller scale, as has been the case in this County for decades.
There are four Supervisors advocating for the super-sized cultivation model as they believe, and have said, that County revenues will be enhanced with expansion. They argue that it’s not their responsibility to protect small growers through the mechanism of a Cannabis Ordinance. Yet they see nothing wrong with constructing a regulatory framework that favors industrial and corporate cultivators.
The vast majority of citizens recognize that the 10 percent rule, if adopted, will lead to unprecedented expansion of cannabis cultivation on a scale never imagined by anyone familiar with the history of marijuana in this area and era.
An overwhelming number of County residents and their elected Board of Supervisors now find themselves at impasse over a proposed ordinance that features this cultivation expansion provision.
Conservatively speaking, 70 percent of County residents oppose the 10 percent rule and its direct causal adverse impact on our most valuable natural resource, water.
The folks who are opposed to the 10 percent rule include growers, non-growers, ranchers, farmers, small business owners, workers from all sectors of our economy, a mix of community organizations and municipal advisory councils, and a former sheriff as well as the current sheriff.
Our referendum deletes just 38 words from the new ordinance. It’s a single sentence but it is the only line in the new ordinance that contains and thus creates the 10 percent Expansion Rule. It is found in the ordinance’s “Attachment A” entered as asterisk 6. It reads as follows:
“*6 Parcels in the AG or RL zoning district that have a minimum parcel size of ten (10) acres or larger may cultivate up to 10 percent of the parcel area with the issuance of a Major Use Permit.”
The vast majority of citizens are demanding the Supes remove the 10 percent rule from the ordinance. The board refuses to do so. That only leaves voters one option to rid the ordinance of the rule: The Small Is Beautiful Referendum.
The Small Is Beautiful Mendocino Referendum explicitly addresses what the majority of citizens want accomplished. Many of them have said they do not want the entire ordinance repealed as it includes a number of very critical protections not found in the old ordinance.
We agree with them and that’s why our referendum repeals just the 38 words that establish the 10% Expansion Rule.
Currently, there is another group of folks led by Ellen and David Drell, of the Willits Environmental Center, that are preparing to circulate a referendum that if approved by voters would repeal the entire Phase 3 Ordinance.
We believe that drastic act would just add to the chaos surrounding the Cannabis Program in this county for the past nearly five years.
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Lew Chichester, of Covelo, did an excellent analysis of these issues we’ve been discussing:
I’ve read through the proposed cannabis ordinance enough times now to have a few reasonable comments. The intent of the ordinance, the scope, the restrictions, the description of administrative processes, and, for the most part, the allowable size of cannabis cultivation areas for the various types of grows and land use types seem to correspond with what I perceive to be the intent of the general public. Expansion of size of grows beyond what is presently allowed is on AG land and Rangeland. Both of these land use types are allowed up to ONE ACRE of cultivation with a major use permit.
Rangeland which can have a permitted grow must have demonstrated previous actual farming with tilling, ploughing, harrowing, etc. within the last ten years. No hayfields or grazing land would be considered as appropriate conversion to cannabis. This provision is for the grape growers who want to get into the cannabis business. Maybe that’s OK.
AG land with a one acre allowable grow, with a major use permit, might also be OK.
NOT OK is footnote *6 in Appendix A “Parcels in the AG or RL zoning district that have a minimum parcel size of ten (10) acres or larger may cultivate up to 10 percent of the parcel area with the issuance of a Major Use Permit.” This is the Ted Williams sponsored controversial item which has almost universal rejection by the public and the item which should be subject to a referendum ballot. I think the referendum should be limited to this one line, not the entire ordinance.
Yes, there are some land use zones which are being allowed some expansion in the new ordinance. The majority of the varieties of grows and land use types are staying at the existing limits.
What I like about the proposed ordinance are the restrictions which include a requirement for on site water source, no generators, no gas powered water pumps, no visible illuminated grows, security lighting on motion sensors and pointed downward, no cutting down of trees to clear a patch. I am not a cannabis farmer. My concerns have been with the lack of enforceable limitations on grows, legal, permitted or completely outlaw.
This new ordinance has flaws, limitations and doesn’t begin to address various mechanisms which will likely be utilized to get around the acreage limits on AG and RL. There are other shortcomings, but I presently see all this as a process. The county does not have much credibility right now, has done a terrible job of dealing with Phase 1 applicants, and a worse job in dealing with all the outlaw grows. I don’t know if the mess is from simple incompetence or a carefully orchestrated intent to sabotage the whole thing over the last four years. It doesn’t matter right now what was the reason this got so fouled up. I think we have to move forward. A referendum on just the 10 percent Expansion Rule, start using this proposed ordinance, stay involved, and get this cannabis thing moving along. It takes up way too much of the oxygen and there are a lot of other pressing issues. YES, we could have an initiative petition to require a cumulative impact EIR for all the proposed/possible cannabis cultivation, and that might be a good idea.
(Jim Shields is the Mendocino County Observer’s editor and publisher, email@example.com, and is also the long-time district manager of the Laytonville County Water District. Listen to his radio program “This and That” every Saturday at 12 noon on KPFN 105.1 FM, also streamed live: http://www.kpfn.org.)