Dec 3, 2018
By Anna Ransome
A recent application for a large commercial cannabis grow and processing facility adjacent to Graton homes and the West County Trail has put a spotlight on the county’s evolving cannabis regulations.
The project, a poster child for neighborhood incompatibility, is currently on hold. According to planner Scott Davidson, the applicant needs to address a multitude of issues, including site access, biological resources, crime and safety, land use conflicts, neighborhood compatibility, proximity to the trail, surface water runoff, traffic and water supply.
Friends of Graton (FOG) is a local grassroots group formed to help guide thoughtful decision making in ways that benefit our community and our unique, fragile natural environment.
Some 453 people have signed our petition opposing the Jackalope Gardens aka Loud Enterprises project on a 13- acre parcel with Diverse Agriculture zoning. The project calls for 18 greenhouses, 30 parking spaces, 8-foot-high perimeter fencing, 5,050 square feet of buildings, 12 water storage tanks, surveillance cameras and a security station – all accessed by narrow Railroad Street and visible from the West County Trail.
FOG raised these issues at the October 16 Board of Supervisors meeting, where Supervisors were considering amendments to the current cannabis regulations. Some regulations were sent back for further study, including the issue of setbacks from trails, such as the West County Trail, that are operated and maintained by Sonoma County Regional Parks.
Fifth District Supervisor Lynda Hopkins supports a 1,000-foot buffer zone separating cannabis operations from trails, the same setback given to Regional Parks. The Board is expected to decide the trail/park issue on Tuesday, December 11 at 9 a.m. at the Board of Supervisors Chambers, 575 Administration Drive, Santa Rosa.
FOG believes that commercial cannabis on ag land near neighborhoods exacerbates compatibility issues. The county-required security measures for cannabis grows (night lighting, surveillance cameras, high fences and guards in some cases) raise huge issues when they are proposed adjacent to families, homes and neighborhoods.
FOG has no issue with cannabis per se. We recognize its medical benefits and the benefits to society of de-criminalization. However, it is likely that few voters fully understood the difficulties of leveraging an industry with such high-security needs and potential to blight neighborhoods into existing zoning in rural areas of the county.
WEST COUNTY TRAIL PROXIMITY – Setbacks of 1,000 feet are necessary to protect trail users from odors and visible cannabis plants, and to preserve one of the loveliest uninterrupted trail vistas of the Atascadero riparian and wetland areas. Common sense and county regulations require that children not be exposed to cannabis grows, yet this project would be in full view from the West County Trail and from previously peaceful, rural neighborhoods accustomed to fresh air and dark night skies.
RAILROAD STREET ACCESS _ Every resident on this narrow, one-lane, dead-end street opposes this project. Even now, garbage trucks and delivery vans must back into this narrow road because there are no turn-arounds. If the project were permitted, and the road widened, most shrubs, trees and fences that separate Railroad Street from the trail would have to be removed, affecting privacy and public safety.
FLOODING – We have a notoriously high water table, and the creek floods during high water events, inundating a third of the parcel. Adding impermeable surfaces, such as roofs, will increase flooding on nearby properties.
ODORS – Odors are one of the main complaints from neighbors of existing cannabis operations. Prevailing southwest winds would carry any odors throughout Graton.
RODENTICIDES – These are commonly used to kill rodents that destroy cannabis plants, with resulting incidental kills of hawks, bobcats, coyotes and other predators that feed on rats, mice and gophers.
NOISE – Vehicle trips by a projected 16 employees, delivery vans and trucks would increase noise levels on this very quiet street, as would fans, pumps, water treatment equipment, and the like.
Clearly, there is pressure to streamline the cannabis permitting process, but perhaps our Board of Supervisors should consider Supervisor David Rabbitt’s suggestion for a moratorium on cannabis approvals until the gray areas of the ordinances are resolved. Applicants should know exactly what they can and can't do before spending countless dollars for unnecessary drawings, studies and fees.
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