Sample letter for cannabis set backs
Send yours to Cannabis@sonoma-county.org and put “ Cannabis Update” as the subject
We are very concerned about the neighborhood compatibility component of the cannabis ordinance and want to point out our concerns especially as it relates to the West County Trail. We support maintaining the mandatory 1000 ft setbacks for schools and parks and feel the 1000 ft setbacks should be extended to residences so our children can be protected wherever they are, schools, parks or homes.
The ministerial cannabis applications under consideration on Barlow Lane are good examples of the flaws in the ministerial application process. There are over 20 homes that use a narrow dirt road which is incompatible for a commercial operation. The impact on the neighborhood is significant and will be made worse by the ability to receive up to four separate permits which will require four working crews that will cause even more impact.
The following concerns need to be resolved in your Phase 2 changes:
- Ministerial permits with their fast-track application and approval process, undermine the spirit of the long-established Sonoma County land use policies. The lack of neighborhood notification, proper vetting of the application, and full understanding of applicant’s impact on the neighborhood are being disregarded by an Ag Department who seems predisposed to advocate on behalf of applicant. Ag’s first choice of action is to coach the applicant into conforming. “They deserve a second chance” is the mindset. When Code Enforcement and the Ag Department are notified and given evidence of infractions, they work with the applicant to address them to assure the application can be approved. The ministerial permit process fails to address all the commercial cannabis impacts and to minimize the risks associated with criminal activity, degradation of neighborhood character, groundwater basin overdraft, obnoxious odors, noise nuisances, hazardous materials, and fire hazards. Please revert ministerial cannabis permits back to a use permit process.
- Scenic Corridor: We are trying to protect the look and feel of our rural countryside especially within the Scenic Corridor. How does a commercial cannabis grow with all the high fencing, security gates, camera surveillance, fire suppression…comply with the guidelines of the Scenic Corridor? Building permit applications in the scenic corridor must submit detailed disclosures on the color, roofing, lighting, view…to assure the look is in compliance with the directives in the Scenic Corridor guidelines. The ministerial permit application process evades this protection contrary to clearly established requirements.
- Commercial operation: An outdoor cannabis grow is akin to dropping a one-acre self-storage facility with all its metal fencing, security gates, security lighting, surveillance equipment, employees, bathrooms into our rural countryside that we have fought so hard to protect against the blight of further commercial encroachment.
- Easements: Given that there is no notice given to the neighbors via a ministerial application process, the only recourse an easement holder has against a violating neighbor that is further burdening a residential easement is a costly civil lawsuit. The ministerial permit process is thus causing significant harm to the fabric of a cohesive neighborhood and potentially igniting a fight with a costly win or loose outcome in civil court. Written permission from the easement holders is a solution.
- Sub leasing: The property owners must be accountable for bad actors on their property. Please continue to require the property owner to approve of a cannabis operation on their property as part of the application requirements. Also require that the property owners sign the same indemnification clause that is required by the applicant.
- Property value: Anyone selling their house in the neighborhood must disclose that a commercial cannabis operation exists in the neighborhood. In early August, a family discounted their bid on a property at 1706 Barlow Lane, which borders a proposed cannabis grow, when they found out about the cannabis applications. Who wants to live near a cannabis grow? There is much that has been written about the recent Supreme Court finding on the government taking of value. Cannabis commercial operations destroy real property value on all surrounding properties. Please increase the minimum lot size to at least 20 acres for a small outdoor grow.
- Crime: The metal fencing, security cameras, video surveillance & archiving, lights, security gates…all speak to the heightened crime potential. Burglaries and murders have resulted from grow operations where criminals believe large amounts of money are associated with such operations. Such cases have been reported in local and regional newspapers. Our neighbors on Barlow Lane can attest to exchanges with questionable people driving through the neighborhood seeking information about the illegal growing site. Friends property has been subject to trespassing and their fences have been cut in order to steal cannabis on another parcel.
- Quality of life: The neighborhood’s privacy, security and quality of life will be greatly impacted by a commercial operation. The neighborhood enjoys majestic views, privacy and a quiet rural setting. Developing what will look like a mini-self-storage facility with all the security, lighting, grading, vegetation removal, fire suppression requirements, noise, odor…will significantly degrade our neighborhood’s quality of life.
- Ordinance inconsistency: There exists inconsistencies between ministerial cannabis permits and other permits which makes code enforcement difficult. As example, no trees can be removed for a cannabis outdoor grow. Yet according to code enforcement, who’s to say if the ministerial cannabis applicant cut the trees down before the applicant decided to grow cannabis? Only cannabis applications have the restriction. Another are hoop houses. Code enforcement doesn’t seem interested in a cannabis applicant that builds hoop houses prior to being issued a ministerial cannabis permit because the applicant can easily apply for a separate fire permit and erect a hoop house and state it was only after they built it that they decided to grow cannabis. These are catch-22s with code enforcement and the Ag Dept pointing the finger of responsibility at each other.
Thank you for your consideration,