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Please accept these as our preliminary comments on your 1/22/20 hearing regarding changes to the Cannabis Ordinance. We believe this item as inextricably linked to the “Ag Working Group” report, which has not been posted as of 2 p.m. today [January 17, 2020], so it is impossible for us to comment on that. A Coalition Board member will address your Commission at public comment at the hearing, once we’ve had a chance to review the Ag Working group report.
In summary, the Coalition has submitted numerous comments over the past year to the Planning Commission, and to the Board of Supervisors, pleading with you to recommend and the board to adopt significant changes to the County Cannabis Ordinance, as well as to the manner in which so-called “legal non-conforming” cultivation sites have been allowed to obtain state license, and expand.
We believe it is well within your powers, if not your obligation, to urge the Board of Supervisors (BOS) to cease authorizing State Provisional Licenses, or the extension of those licenses, as state law relies on local jurisdictions to advise if a grower is “in compliance with local law.” (See Business and Professions Code 26055 (a), (f) and (g).) It is absurd for staff to claim no ability to enforce county codes, while other county staff have authorized over 1,000 provisional licenses for industrial cannabis operations that have not been permitted and that far exceed the 100 square feet exempted in January 2016.
While your staff report attempts to limit your ability to communicate your concerns to the Board of Supervisors, we will remind your commission that in fact in 2017 your commission did recommend that the board adopt a process for validating claims of “legal” nonconforming cannabis cultivation. The cannabis industry vehemently opposed this action, and instead successfully sought “letters of authorization” they could use to obtain unlimited state licenses, before the county’s Cannabis Ordinance was even adopted.
We urge you to utilize whatever means at your disposal to again insist that a process be immediately implemented to cease authorization or renewal of state licenses on unpermitted operations and review existing nonconforming uses. This unprecedented situation is increasingly creating severe conflicts with existing residents and business operations countywide. Related to that conflict, we draw your attention to the letter from Grower-Shipper Association for today’s hearing; it strongly emphasizes the incompatibility of cannabis cultivation and traditional agriculture: “[W]e cannot remain silent in the face of continued increases in the number of members whose ability to exercise best management practices is crippled by their proximity to hemp or cannabis cultivation” [See public comment letter from Grower-Shipper Association dated 1-16-20].
The Coalition would add that the ability of residents and communities to continue day-to-day enjoyment of their homes and environment has been similarly crippled by the lack of limits on industrial marijuana cultivation.
In reference to the Cannabis Land Use Ordinance (which is almost irrelevant since the bulk of cultivation exists without compliance with the ordinance), the Coalition makes the following recommendations:
- Establish reasonable per parcel grow caps to reduce impact to neighbors and existing ag businesses; as you have been advised many times, our County is unique in allowing unlimited cultivation;
- Set higher permit standards — e.g., Conditional Use Permits — for inland and coastal cultivation; as you recommended to the BOS last May, Inland and Coastal Ag zoning should be treated similarly;
- Require significant buffer zones between grow sites to avoid high concentration in scenic gateway corridors and neighborhoods; similarly, recall the cities of Buellton, Goleta, Carpinteria, and Solvang have all adopted resolutions requesting significant buffers between their cities and cannabis cultivation;
- Require mandatory multi-tiered odor mitigation for indoor and outdoor cultivation, production and manufacturing.
We thank you for all of the time and effort you have taken to attempt to apply our county’s land use policies to this new industry. We urge you to do so again.