MENDOCINO Co., 4/18/21 — The Mendocino County Board of Supervisors will be meeting Monday and Tuesday this week, with special Monday meeting devoted entirely to a discussion and possible action on two cannabis-related ordinance proposals, last heard before the Planning Commission on March 19. In light of the intense public attention that the cannabis cultivation ordinance proposal has generated, the county executive office issued a statement this week noting that they may not allow all public commenters a chance to speak at Monday’s meeting, instead encouraging residents to submit written comments in advance.
One proposed ordinance, would establish a new discretionary use permit for “phase three” cannabis cultivation, and potentially allow applicants to cultivate cannabis on up to 10% of particular parcels. Said provision has sparked tremendous push back from local and state agencies, local officials including water district officers and members of the municipal advisory councils, and hundreds if not thousands of concerned residents and already permitted cannabis farmers. The other proposed ordinance, which regulates cannabis facilities as well as possible cannabis farm tours, will also be heard on Monday.
Written public comment can be submitted to the board at [email protected], or at this webpage, where you can also register to speak at the meeting. However, county officials have warned that all public speakers may not be heard, and registration to speak during the meeting may close at 7 a.m. on Monday, April 19.
The documents for both proposed ordinances can be found here, and the meetings will be livestreamed on the county’s Youtube page. Here’s our earlier summary of the timeline leading up to the phase three proposals, included links to videos, public comments, and more. (Unfortunately, while full videos are available, the county has not provided any approved minutes from county supervisors meetings on the website since February 23, 2021.)
The county’s announcement encouraging written public comment and warning that public speakers may be ended early is the first time The Mendocino Voice has seen such a written warning from county officials, and is indicative of the controversy and the volume of commentary that this provision has sparked, with public comments already submitted to the board concerning the potential for expanded cultivation permits.
All supervisors, save District 3 Supervisor John Haschak, voted in favor of the initial proposal in January. During the the Planning Commission’s March 19, commissioners received nearly 400 written comments and heard from over 100 public speakers, as well as Sheriff Matthew Kendall. The vast majority of the comments were against the 10%-of-a-parcel provision.
The commission recommended a cap on the size of cultivation permits of between one acre and 5% of a parcel, instead of the currently proposed 10%. Tomorrow the supervisors are tasked with discussing and taking action on the Commission’s recommendations.
As of 2 p.m. on April 18, 227 written comments had already been submitted, including those from the Mendocino Fish & Game Commission, the Mendocino County Farm Bureau, the Mendocino Cannabis Alliance, the Inland Mendocino County Land Trust, the Covelo Community Services District, the Peregrine Audubon Society, the Covelo Cannabis Advocacy Group, the Redwood Valley Municipal Advisory Council. Staff from a number of statewide agencies also provided an analysis of the environmental impacts of expanded cultivation during the most recent Supervisors’ meeting. A number of local organizations and water districts, particularly those focused on water use, have also called for the county to conduct an “environmental impact report” (EIR) for the proposed ordinance, or to bring it before the voters.
The vast majority of public commenters expressed opposition to the 10% provision, with one of the most cited concerns being environmental impacts and water use, as Mendocino County is expected to soon issue an emergency drought declaration, and water use is being curtailed this year.
Others have expressed concern over the county’s ability to adequately staff and manage the existing program, plus how additional planning staff requirements, as well as enforcement, would be handled. Many residents, along with organizations such as the Mendocino Cannabis Alliance, have also expressed concern about how the “phase three” ordinance as currently proposed will affect the existing cannabis cultivation permit holders in the county, who may not have a clear path forward to receiving annual state permits but may be forced to stop cultivation and re-apply, despite years of paying fees and receiving various licensing approvals from the county and numerous state environmental regulatory agencies. Nearly 900 provisional state and county cultivation permits have already been approved, according to a presentation from the CalCannabis agency to the supervisors at the April 12 supervisors meeting.
During this same meeting (watch here), supervisors unanimously voted to approve a new code enforcement program, referred to as “the Humboldt model,” authorizing county officials, including the newly hired cannabis program manager, to use current satellite imagery to target existing cannabis cultivation applicants that may not be in compliance, with an estimated cost of approximately $330,000, plus an additional expenditure to increase the amount of an outside attorney contract to expedite culling phase one and two applicants in the county’s existing application queue. The county has yet to provide a full accounting for the 1100 or so applicants in the earlier stages of the program, so exactly how many applicants are waiting on permit approval or information from the county, and how many have not yet submitted adequate paperwork remains unclear.
Read our April 11 overview of the phase three ordinance process here: https://mendovoice.com/2021/04/heres-whats-next-for-mendocino-countys-proposed-phase-three-cannabis-regulations/
Here’s the county’s announcement concerning written public comment for the April 19 meeting:
WRITTEN COMMENT ENCOURAGED FOR THE BOARD OF SUPERVISORS HEARING OF CANNABIS CULTIVATION AND CANNABIS FACILITIES ORDINANCES
At the Special Meeting of the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors on Monday, April 19, 2021, Cannabis Cultivation and Cannabis Facilities Ordinances will be considered. Due to the high level of public interest on these matters, it is anticipated that the Board may not have sufficient time to hear from all speakers who sign up. Although the Board has scheduled a special meeting for these two items, early indications are that there may be more people wishing to speak on this item than there may be time available.
Consistent with the Brown Act and the Rules of Procedure for the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors, Board Chair Dan Gjerde anticipates that it may necessary to limit the total amount of time for public comment. Due to the volume of public interest, speaking time may be allocated on a first come, first served basis.
Information and sign up for telecomment can be found here: https://www.mendocinocounty.org/government/board-of-supervisors/agendas-and-minutes/bos telecomments. Because time for oral comments may be limited, the public is encouraged to submit written comments in advance of the meeting by emailing the Board at [email protected] through the Mendocino County online eComment platform at https://mendocino.legistar.com/Calendar.aspx.
“In recent years, county supervisors, county planning commissioners, and county staff have deliberated in dozens of public meetings on the terms and conditions for permitting the regulated portion of the cannabis industry in Mendocino County,” said Board Chair Dan Gjerde. “Monday’s two public hearings are a continuation of these many years of deliberations.”
For more information, please contact Clerk of the Board staff at (707) 463-4221.