MENDOCINO CO., 7/17/17 — The Board of Supervisors will be taking on two major topics of ongoing community concern at their meeting this Tuesday: cannabis farming permits, and mental health services. Both subjects have been the locus of ballot measures and continuous debate over the last several years, and the supes will be returning to these topics tomorrow.
All related documents for the upcoming supervisors’ meetings can be found attached to the full agenda here. Residents can provide public comment in writing before the meeting or in person; comment is limited to three minutes per agenda item and three speakers on a non-agendized topic. The meetings are held in Ukiah in the Board of Supervisors Chambers but you can also also watch the livestream at home on the county’s youtube page. Additional items are on the agenda but we’re giving you an overview of two big ones. The cannabis discussion is scheduled for 1:30pm.
Mendocino’s new cannabis cultivation ordinance has been in effect since April — but since applications began being accepted in early May, residents both in support and against the new permitting program have been airing their complaints as public comments at supervisors meetings. In response, the supervisors plan to discuss possible amendments to the cannabis ordinance beginning at 1:30pm tomorrow, and possibly take action. The board will also discuss and possible create a new stand-alone cannabis department and department head, who would coordinate between the different county departments currently involved in regulating cannabis farming. These include the county’s tax office, environmental health, air quality, the ag department, planning and building, and the executive office, which would oversee the new department.
This agenda item includes a regular update from the Mendocino County Agriculture Department and the cannabis code enforcement division, since staff from both departments have been coordinating to inspect farms and review the applications of cannabis farmers applying for the new cultivation permits. Over 500 applications have been submitted, but so far only one farm permitted, and more than ten farms seeking permits have been rejected due to environmental concerns found during inspections.
The new ordinance requires coordination between the county’s ag department, planning and building staff, air quality department, public health, regional water agencies, and other county departments and local agencies prior to an application being approved. Due to the volume of applications, processing delays at various stages of the permit process, and concerns about inconsistent interpretations of how the ordinance should be applied between different departments and staff, supervisors have proposed creating a department that would coordinate between the different staff regulating cannabis farms.
The discussion also may address ongoing concerns about what types of farm structures, such as hoophouses, greenhouses, and drying shacks, will require what types of planning and building permits, American with Disabilities Act requirements, and other code enforcement concerns, many of which have been raised by farmers seeking permits as barriers to compliance this season. Farmers have also mentioned the fee schedule, permit deadline, planning and building amnesty, and fear of enforcement while waiting for applications to be processed as other issues with the ordinance "in the field." Neighbors have cited concerns over environmental impacts and proximity to other parcels as some of the problems they see with the new ordinance.
On the topic of mental health, the supervisors plan to discuss the possibility of a new “Mental Health Treatment Act” supported by a county-wide tax, that would be placed on the ballot in November, 2017. This would include a new sales tax, called a “use tax” that would go to specifically support “funding improved services, treatment, and facilities” for mental health patients in the county, akin to a pair of joint measures sponsored by Sheriff Tom Allman and other residents that were voted on in the 2016 election. Those previous ballot measures, which included a ballot measure for new mental health facilities, required the approval of two thirds of voters, which the tax measure received during the election, but the mental health facilities measure did not. Some opponents of the measure expressed concern that the wording of the initiative meant that funding would only be available for mental health facilities, but not for the staffing or mental health programs that would take place within said facilities.
The Mental Health Initiative Ad Hoc Committee, which consists of Supervisors John McCowen and Dan Hamburg, are sponsoring this new proposal in coordination with the Sheriff’s Office, the county’s Health and Human Services Agency, county counsel, and the Behavioural Health Advisory Board. The documents related to the new proposal, included the draft of the proposed ballot measure, can be found attached to the supervisors’ agenda for the July 18 meeting here.
Kate B. Maxwell, [email protected]