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Calaveras Supes Chew On Public Comments From Cannabis Public Sessions

San Andreas, CA — While all of the Calaveras supervisors commented on the positive tone and quality of the comments received at the round two public workshop on commercial cannabis cultivation, it was impossible to tell if any positions among the three supervisors behind the county’s draft ban proposal had moved, even incrementally.

The four-plus hour session, expressly held for the public to weigh in with ban alternative ideas, followed a marathon meeting last week where ban proponents had the opportunity to unload their thoughts and fears over marijuana and the current urgency ordinance regulating grows set to expire Feb. 14 2018 unless something else replaces it before then.

As reported here, Board Chair and District Three Supervisor Michael Oliveira spoke with Clarke Broadcasting ahead of the meeting, expressing hopes for a more flexible mindset amongst the board members and perhaps a way to push the ultimate decision to a public ballot vote.

Ban-minded Bloc Declines To Discuss Pro-grow Input

Towards the end of the meeting, Vice Chair and District Two Supervisor Jack Garamendi, whose district, as reported here, holds far and away the most grows in the county and favors moving forward with a permanent regulatory ordinance, attempted to poll his board mates. He asked, “Since this study session was about alternatives…are we considering alternatives?” Pressing further, he stated, “The majority of this board has made a very clear statement that they want the ban in place. The staff has written a very clear ban. So the question I have for my fellow board members before we go into a long discussion is there any number of cannabis farms under any type of zoning whatsoever that would be considered? Are we open to opening this up?”

The three pro-ban board members, District 1 Supervisor Gary Tofanelli, District 4 Supervisor Dennis Mills and District 5 Supervisor Clyde Clapp all demurred from directly answering, stating that they needed time to review their notes from the public sessions as well as public comments from EIR associated with the draft ordinance. Oliveira then polled the members on their thoughts towards setting a special session to do just that, which wound up being calendared for Tuesday, June 20, since next week’s schedule is already jammed with budget hearings

When asked for a timeline on finalizing his department’s report on the EIR, Planning Director Peter Maurer estimated that following the close of the still-open comment period, set to end June 14, it will probably take his office two to four weeks to ready the package for a Planning Commission review. Following that, the supervisors would then be able to certify it sometime in late July or early August. He readily conceded to the board’s request to compile all of the public comments and provide some related insights in time for the June 20 meeting.

Garamendi Shares Thoughts For The Record

Unable to get his board mates to chime in with any specific thoughts on ban alternative input, much less agree to consider a dual-track approach allowing staff to begin crafting a regulatory ordinance alternative, Garamendi said he would speak thusly for the record. Leading off, he stated, “Some of the stuff that I heard people talking about — banning cannabis cultivation from rural residential zones and minimal parcel size – that is a really big deal and takes on a lot of the community issues in everybody’s district that it going on.” Adding other ideas that resounded with him he shared, “Taking [grows] away from sensitive zones…taking a look at what we list as sensitive zones…issuing a permit cap on businesses by issuing business licenses — that is a powerful tool.”

Among specific suggestions put forth by growers, Garamendi emphasized their proposed cap within Calaveras of 250 registered grows. Based on the county’s current 15,000 square-foot canopy limits and $2/square foot canopy tax — while sharing some quick math — Garamendi estimated that the county would then wind up with a maximum of 86 acres of commercial grows and roughly $7.5 million to deal with illegal grows and fund enforcement infrastructure.

He noted several other ideas from members of the pro-regulatory public as food for thought, including allowing growers impacted by potential zoning changes to move from a non-conforming property to a conforming one; mandating local residency requirements for grower corporations; much more thorough background checks and certified papers and/or ID badges for grow workers.

The June 20 special session, during which the board expects to address input to date and EIR public comments, is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. in the supervisors chambers at the county government center (891 Mountain Ranch Road).