After three meetings, the Yolo County Board of Supervisors wrapped up taking straw votes on the county’s Cannabis Land Use Ordinance.
“I just want to take a few minutes to give a little pep talk,” said Leslie Lindbo the chief assistant director for the county’s Department of Community Service. “As we began the continuance of the CLUO hearing, I just want to recognize how far we’ve come through the deliberation process. These are really tough decisions and I appreciate staff’s efforts and the public participation from stakeholders, input from the planning commission, but most of all the perseverance of the Board of Supervisors.”
All decisions made during this meeting only applied to areas outside of the Capay Valley. Regulations within the Capay Valley were discussed on May 18. The Capay Valley is restricted to only five growth permits, which cannot be transferred to other growers. These permits could not be transferred if one grower chose to forfeit their permit, and all cultivation sites would need to adhere to a 1,000-foot buffer — the space between cannabis growth sites and certain properties.
At the beginning of Tuesday’s discussion, Chairman Jim Provenza brought up a compromise he had discussed with Vice Chairman Angel Barajas regarding the decision made at the June 8 meeting to implement buffers of 600 feet with only a 10% buffer reduction.
“You had a situation where it was shorter than I wanted, and I guess 600 feet was much shorter than I wanted, but at the same time having other exceptions to the buffers, which we did not include was something that others wanted,” Provenza said. “I did discuss with the vice chair a possible middle ground that would allow greater buffers going forward for both operations that move and for any new operations.”
Barajas explained that, under the new idea, new outdoor cannabis grows and any current grows that need to move would need to have a 1,000-foot buffer with no exceptions or reductions. Existing licenses could continue to have a 600-foot buffer, and there would be increased flexibility for those who do not fall into those 600 feet. All licenses must go through a permit-use process.
The proposal was approved unanimously by supervisors.
The next matter discussed by the board involved buffers for outdoor cultivation near cities, towns and spheres of influences — or designated boundaries where growth is expected in the future.
The board unanimously chose to not allow any outdoor cultivation within growth boundaries of an unincorporated town, which came from the staff’s recommendation.
As for cities, Provenza motioned for a 2,500-foot buffer surrounding cities. His idea was shot down receiving only one additional yes vote. Instead, supervisors chose to apply a 1,500-foot buffer from any residentially-zoned areas in a city or town, a motion brought forth by Barajas. These guidelines would only apply to new or moved operations. The motion passed with one no vote from Supervisor Don Saylor.
As for an over-concentration threshold, staff recommended a limit of 10 cultivation sites within a six-mile area, but Supervisor Gary Sandy asked for a limit of five sites within a 12-mile area.
“I just feel that these operations are impactful,” Sandy explained. “People notice them and their activities and that we should be very cautious in proceeding with any risk of an oversupply and this would enable us to keep our foot on the break of that happening.”
Supervisor Oscar Villegas agreed, noting that growth sites could get larger in the future, so limiting them would be ideal.
The board compromised with a limit of seven growth sites within a 12-mile area, although it only passed narrowly with a 3-2 vote.
The last portion of the discussion was focused on a number of items that emerged over the course of the talks. One of those items was brought up by Villegas, who asked whether the county could restrict grows to county residents only — something that most likely would violate the constitution, according to County Counsel Phil Pogledich.
“Back in olden times, the framers of the constitution included a privileges and immunities clause, which basically assured that residents of different states could move about freely and undertake their occupations anywhere in the republic,” Pogledich said. “So that’s been interpreted a number of times in the context of occupations to allow somebody to move about and engage in their occupation without any undue restriction by state, local or federal government.”
Another point was the idea of indoor cultivation, something that was often recommended by public commenters.
“The impacts from cannabis outdoor growing are completely eradicated for the most part with indoor cultivation,” one caller said during public comment. “California is having its worst drought in 1,200 years, and yet the county is figuring out ways to expand cannabis crops. It’s ridiculous. The farmers, their water use is being dialed back significantly, so indoor cultivation would reduce the amount of water, and protect the crop.”
Yet, growers say that indoor cultivation is worse for the environment and a worse practice overall.
“I do believe that as we continue going forward, we must look at sustainable practices for future generations and not leaving huge impacts by power of indoor cultivation,” another resident said. “Outdoor cultivation is going on in 17 counties in our state…. Outdoor cultivation is very important due to several factors, the number one factor being the elicit growing and cartel grows will continue to grow this product, continue to take our watersheds, continue to hurt our environment through chemicals, while the legal cultivation of outdoor cannabis is doing it right.”
The staff recommended no additional buffers applying to indoor cultivation in order to encourage cannabis cultivation to move indoors, according to Heidi Tschudin, a consultant with the county.
After a lengthy discussion regarding buffers, the board agreed to follow a 100-foot buffer for any new indoor cannabis use, and those users could ask for a reduction of the buffer of up to 10%. Provenza also asked that the board continue to look into the consequences of indoor cultivation for future discussions.
Additionally, the board moved to consider how to limit the use of generators for cannabis growers, and to look into any sort of issues surrounding cannabis effects on different crops.
The revised version of the CLUO will be brought to supervisors on July 27, and the board is expected to adopt it as early as Aug. 31.