Yolo Board of Supervisors tackle cannabis land use

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The Yolo County Board of Supervisors has been working to develop a Cannabis Land Use Ordinance (CLUO) to replace the temporary licensing ordinance currently in place.

In 2016, the Board adopted Ordinance Number 1467 to regulate medical cannabis cultivation but has found it necessary to create a land use ordinance in step with the times.

One thing seems certain – cannabis cultivation is here to stay in Yolo County and not everyone is happy.

More than 12 hours during three board meetings since May 18 have been dedicated to reviewing staff recommendations and developing a CLUO.

Over the course of these meetings, board members’ concerns were discussed, public comment was received, stakeholder input was taken, county counsel provided legal opinions, staff recommendations were considered and input from the county planning commission, contract planner and community citizen groups was received. On many items, the board took straw votes to advance provisions of the CLUO.

Concerns presented at the meetings ranged from the number and types of permits issued, environmental disturbances, such as generator noise and plant odor, criminal activity, ownership and licensing types, setbacks, residential buffers, industrial indoor grows verses agricultural and rural land grows, processing and more.

During the May 18 meeting, testimony was received from 46 individuals during public comment – both in support and in opposition. Capay Valley residents have been especially opposed to cannabis cultivation.

A letter was sent to the board in early May signed by 47 “concerned community residents” of Capay Valley. The letter’s subject line was entitled: Residents United to Demand a Cannabis Exclusion for Greater Capay Valley.” The letter stated, “We want to make it clear to you, the elected Board of Supervisors, including our District 5 Supervisor Angel Barajas, that we want the cannabis industry out of the greater Capay Valley…”

The board voted unanimously to adopt a CLUO to replace the temporary licensing ordinance. They also clarified their intentions related to overall regulatory controls, the Capay Valley area boundary, Capay Valley regulations and buffers for tribal cultural resources.

A lengthy discussion ensued and ranged from limiting the number of cannabis use permits to a complete ban in Capay Valley, given the special nature of the valley.

The board voted 4 – 1 (District 3 Supervisor Gary Sandy opposed) to establish restrictions in Capay Valley to include a 1,000-foot buffer from homes with no buffer exceptions or easements, bans on regional-serving nurseries, processing, distribution, testing, manufacturing and retail licenses, and limiting the number of cannabis use permits to five.

The board voted unanimously to establish a 1,000-foot buffer for tribal cultural resources. Also, use permits will not be transferable and will be removed from the available inventory if a permit is allowed to lapse or is forfeited.

At the board’s June 8 meeting, they continued their discussion relating to outdoor countywide cultivation buffers, (other than in Capay Valley), buffer exceptions and caps on use permits licenses.

Six-hundred-foot buffers were approved between outdoor cultivation sites and identified sensitive uses, such as homes, parks, schools and daycare, which mirrored staff’s recommendation.

Some highlights from the meeting include the board approving by a vote of 4 – 1 (District 4 Supervisor Jim Provenza opposed) staff’s recommendation for grandfathering in 19 of the 35 cultivation sites outside of Capay Valley with less-than required buffers. Of the remaining, nine would have to establish their cultivation sites elsewhere and seven would have to move offsite or indoors.

The board decided not to increase or reduce the current number of 48 cultivating licenses. They limited the number of permits to two for testing, five for nurseries and storefronts, six for manufacturing, seven for processing and distribution. A moratorium of two years for storefront retail in the town of Clarksburg was approved.

Leading into the June 29 board meeting, Contract Planner Heidi Tschudin presented slides covering what issues had been addressed and issues for this meeting. One cautionary perspective Tschudin offered was that “The ordinance will evolve over time based on effectiveness and the need to respond to actions by state and federal government.”

Issues addressed were buffers for cities, spheres of influence and towns as well as over-concentration threshold and other CLUO regulations. The board voted unanimously to prohibit outdoor grows in towns within identified growth boundaries.

Provenza made a motion to require a 1,500-foot buffer around any residentially zoned area in cities and towns, (excluding Capay Valley), to apply only to new and moved operations. Barajas seconded the motion and it carried 4–1 (District 2 Supervisor Don Saylor opposed).

Another decision item for the board was for the over-concentration threshold to apply to existing and new licenses. The board was presented several options and after some discussion and compromise, they voted 3–2 to approve a maximum seven grow sites within a six-mile area. Barajas and Saylor voted against the motion.

Other items the board heard covered were buffers and setbacks for indoor grows, which would have different setback requirements depending on zoning types.  The board approved a 100-foot buffer for indoor cannabis regardless of zoning with a ten percent variance to apply to new licenses only. The motion passed.

Revenue sharing was determined to be a complicated discussion, but it was said that if the cities want control, then they should share revenue with the county. Daniel Kim, assistant county administrator, told the board this issue could be worked out without including it in the CLUO.

Final discussion items included neighbor notification when new permits are being considered and limiting the use of generators to 80 hours a year.

The board will return on July 27 to receive the final revised CLUO reflecting board direction received and a preliminary assessment of CEQA compliance. Additional public comment will also be taken at this meeting. Thereafter, staff is to return with a complete approval package for the board’s final action.

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