LAKEPORT, Calif. – The Lake County Planning Commission this week will hold a public hearing on a draft ordinance that would institute permanent regulations on the growing of medical marijuana.
The meeting will begin at 9 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 14, in the Board of Supervisors chambers on the first floor of the Lake County Courthouse, 255 N. Forbes St., Lakeport.
At 9:05 a.m. the commission will hold a public hearing on the Clearlake Oaks County Water District's proposal to install a ground mount photovoltaic array at their wastewater treatment facility at 13705 Jensen Road. before taking up the marijuana cultivation ordinance at 9:15 a.m.
The 26-page proposed ordinance, which can be seen below, would institute permanent medical marijuana cultivation regulations in the unincorporated areas of the county, replacing a temporary ordinance that the Board of Supervisors approved in August 2012 and which remains in effect until next summer.
The new document quotes local law enforcement officials as reporting that marijuana cultivation in the county “has been increasing significantly with each growing season and is increasingly occurring in residential areas, in close proximity to residences, and on vacant, unsupervised and unsecured properties. During the last two years, Lake County has experienced a dramatic increase in citizen complaints regarding the odor, threats to public safety and other nuisances that unregulated Cultivation sites can create.”
The proposed guidelines seek to put new limits on where marijuana can be grown based on concerns about an increase in crimes associated with the plan, and impacts on neighbors – due to increased risk of crimes including burglary, trespassing, robbery and armed robbery – and the environment.
“Law enforcement officials have reported an increase in calls from reported respiratory problems and allergic reactions to marijuana plants,” according to the document, which also points to the lack of regulations on pesticides and fungicides because state law doesn't consider marijuana an agricultural crop.
The current temporary regulations allow for a maximum of six plants to be grown outdoors on a half acre or less, 12 plants with a 75-foot setback on parcels of half an acre to one acre, 18 plants and a 150-foot setback on parcels one to five acres in size, 36 plants and a minimum 150 foot setback on five- to 40-acre parcels, and a maximum of 48 plants on parcels 40 acres and larger. It also expressly prohibits grows on vacant parcels.
The new guidelines would continue to prohibit grows on vacant parcels. It would go further, prohibiting outdoor cultivation altogether within community growth boundaries, including not allowing for the use of greenhouses.
To find the community growth boundaries, visit http://www.co.lake.ca.us/Government/Directory/Community_Development/documents/2008FinGP.htm?PageMode=Print .
In addition, it would limit indoor cultivation to 100 square feet, with indoor lightning not to exceed 1,200 watts and to adhere to electrical codes.
Parcels larger than one acre located outside of community growth boundaries – whether cultivation is taking place outdoors or within greenhouses – cannot exceed six mature or 12 immature plants, “regardless of the number of qualified patients or primary caregivers residing at the premises or participating directly or indirectly in the cultivation.”
However, medical marijuana collectives comprised of members who are all Lake County residents can cultivate up to 48 mature or 72 immature plants on minimum 20-acre parcels in an agricultural zoning district. The land must include the primary residence of at least one of the people for whom the marijuana is being grown.
In those cases where outdoor cultivation is allowed, the grows must be completely screened from public view and the views of adjacent parcels with a fully enclosed solid fence between 6 and 8 feet in height, with locked gates. Outdoor cultivation can't occur within 75 feet of any property line or within 150 feet of any off-site residence.
If such an agricultural property is rented or leased, the tenants must have written approval from the property owner, including the owner's notarized signature, allowing the tenant or lessee to cultivate medical marijuana at the site. A copy of the written approval shall be maintained by the tenant or lessee and made available for review by enforcement officials upon request, and those written approvals shall be renewed annually.
Other rules included in the draft document prohibit outdoor cultivation within 1,000 feet of any public or private elementary, middle or high school, developed park containing playground equipment, drug or alcohol rehabilitation facility, child care facility or nursery school, church or youth-oriented facility.
The new rules would prevent outdoor cultivation within 50 feet of any spring, top of the bank of any creek or seasonal stream, edge of lake, delineated wetland or vernal pool.
The document states that the primary responsibility for enforcement of the ordinance will fall to the sheriff and sworn officers of the Lake County Sheriff's Office. “All other county officials with authority to enforce the County Code shall also have the authority to enforce this ordinance.”
Violators charged with misdemeanors face a fine of $1,000 or by up to six months in jail, or both. If charged as infractions, fines will not exceed $100 on the first violation, $200 on the second violation within the first year and $500 for each additional violation within one year.
Administrative penalties for failure to abate nuisance grows range up to $1,000 per day, and would be imposed under an administrative process included in the proposed regulations.
Email Elizabeth Larson at firstname.lastname@example.org . Follow her on Twitter, @ERLarson, or Lake County News, @LakeCoNews.