The NEW PLANNING COMMISSION Public Hearing – DEC 12th, 2pm – Shasta County, Ca


Photo by Joe McGarity


The Shasta County Planning Commission met Thursday, November 14, 2013 at the Shasta County Administration Building on Court Street in Redding. The Planning Commission conducted three public hearings.

R1 on the agenda concerned permits associated with the Antler’s Bridge construction project in Lakehead. Three permits were being sought by the Tutor-Saliba Corporation, the contractor for the project. Bill Walker, Senior Staff Planner for the County reported to the Commission that although space is available in the Caltrans right-of-way, the company needed more space for temporary offices and for the fabrication of forms. One commissioner asked why permits were being sought now, three years into the project. Walker replied that they didn’t know they needed them and that they are working with the County to comply. Tyler McDonald, an engineer for Tutor-Saliba, spoke on behalf of the company. He was asked about runoff issues. The Planning Commission had received a letter from a concerned citizen about the possible contamination of a well. McDonald replied that they would monitor the runoff issues when it begins to rain and address any issues if they arise.

Paul Smith, a Lakehead resident, spoke in opposition, stating that he is in opposition to only one of the permits being discussed. He said that this was not about a well, so much as a public water system. He said that it is not enough to check for contamination after the fact and said that contamination of a public water supply is a violation of Homeland Security and a larger issue than the company wishes to admit. He said it was “pretty silly” to suggest that a major contractor did not know that they needed to pull a permit. He also objected to large amounts of dust generated at the site. Carla Serio of the Shasta County Environmental Health Department told the Commission that the owner of the Basshole, a local business had raised concerns about runoff from the site and that the well does get inundated from time to time in heavy rainfall, but that she didn’t see any particular problems with runoff noting that she was not aware if the company was using form oil.

Asked if there were any other sites which could be used for the project, McDonald told the Commission that they had done their “due diligence” but would be willing to work with the commission.

In the end, the Commission approved the two permits for which there was no opposition and voted to continue the other permit to the next meeting on December 12.

R2 concerned easing the regulations regarding “Family Care Residences”. A special permit can be issued for a single-wide mobile on a property where it would not normally be allowed, when it is for the purpose of housing additional family members to provide care for the ill or disabled. The issue before the Commission that afternoon was whether or not to adopt four specific changes that could make the process easier on families taking advantage of the special permit. The term of the permit would go from two years to four years so that families would not have to deal with the expense or hassle of renewing the permit quite so often. Doctor’s notes for the permits would no longer include a diagnosis of the individual’s condition because this puts medical information into the public record and further that age and frailty were now to be considered sufficient cause for issuance of a permit. Finally, if the person being cared for passes away or becomes institutionalized, the family has 90 days to remove the mobile rather than the 30 days under the old system. No one spoke either for or against this item and it passed rather easily, 4 – 0.

R3 on the agenda was a proposed restriction on the cultivation of medical marijuana. It was this issue that had packed the hall with a standing-room-only crowd. The proposed zoning amendment would recommend to the Board of Supervisors that they restrict all medicinal marijuana grows to out-buildings and impose a 12 plant limit.

At the outset of this public hearing, the Chairman told the assembled crowd that they had received several letters regarding this subject and that they had read every single one of them including the information that had just been handed to them at the beginning of the meeting. Richard Simon, Director of Resource Management told the Commission that his department had received nearly 400 complaints about marijuana grows so far this year. He said that about 10-15% of those contacted voluntarily came into compliance with regulations. He said the new regulations would ban all outdoor cultivation; limit growers to detached structures only; ban cultivation in residences (noting that this is not a change); impose a hard limit of 12 plants per property; create a one thousand foot perimeter around “sensitive uses” such as schools, parks and churches where growing would not be permitted and require a signed statement of permission from property owners to the effect that their tenants have permission to grow marijuana there.

The procedure for public hearings requires that those in favor of a proposal speak first. A total of fourteen people spoke in favor of the proposed amendment including Shasta County Sheriff, Tom Bosenko; Public Health Officer, Andrew Deckert; Lt. DeWayne Little of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and Dale Fletcher of Shasta County Code Enforcement.

The first speaker, Joanne Owen, wanted to know how much money the County had collected in fines. She said she has never been able to get an answer to this question.

Cathy Grindstaff of A Sobering Choice suggested that “costs of enforcement” be added to fines and penalties incurred by illegal marijuana grows.

Peter Scales said that illegal growers steal water and damage fire hydrants in the Elk Trail East and West neighborhoods. He added that he’s not talking about the 10% who voluntarily comply, but those for whom it’s “all about money”.

Sheriff Bosenko presented a slide presentation showing the environmental damage done by large illegal grows in the County. He showed the effects of illegal grading, illegal chemical use and “timber conversion”, a term used to describe the illegal clearing of the forest.

Lt. Little of Fish and Wildlife made a similar report, also with accompanying slides.

Andrew Deckert of Shasta County Public Health reported his concerns that marijuana negatively affects physical, mental and community health. He cited a number of examples of each. In regards to physical health he mentioned that marijuana slows reaction times and causes drowsiness which can result in physical injuries. He said that marijuana has a negative effect on mental health as well claiming that it causes bi-polar disorder and anxiety, a statement that some in the crowd seemed not to accept.

Others spoke of more teenagers reporting for drug treatment for marijuana issues and a decline in the perception of harm among 7th graders. One speaker asked the Commission about closing all potential loopholes, such as the definitions of “premises” and “property”, noting that minor loopholes in the current code have been severely exploited. Dave Fletcher of Code Enforcement thanked the Commission for giving the department the tools it needs.

Twenty-two people spoke in opposition to the new, stricter guidelines.

Jess Brewer said the new regulations would be too strict. He said the average patient cannot afford to construct an out-building, especially considering the costs of permits.

Marcia Jones said that large grows are already illegal and that “there are real patients here”, adding most of the real patients don’t want illegal grows.

Valarie Barker said that some ordinances need to be done, but that “people like me” (in a wheelchair) could not reasonably be expected to build and operate an outdoor greenhouse. As for the large growers, “Nail ‘em,” she said.

Rob McDonald said that there are “more of us than there are of them” but that these public meetings seem to “always appease everything they ask for and nothing we ask for.” Adding, “Scarcity increases profit and keeps the criminal element in it.”

Other speakers commented on the Sheriff’s presentation saying things like “they are the ones causing the real problem” referring to large marijuana grows and that his presentation was “absolutely irrelevant” to the proposed ordinance. One man said that he did not smoke marijuana, but was concerned about the “slippery slope” of big government, warning the Commission not to be on the wrong side.

Photo by Joe McGarity

Dr. Tammy K. Brazil, owner of the Queen of Dragons in the City of Shasta Lake, after rattling off her impressive list of degrees, spoke of Phoenix Tears, a cannabis based medicine which has been used to slow or even halt the growth of tumors. She said that one of the reasons for not limiting the number of plants a patient may grow is that one small dose of Phoenix Tears requires ¼ pound of the “best primo I can get my hands on” and that the Queen of Dragons routinely provides it to cancer patients free of charge. (One may also pick up a copy of the Fantom Penguin there, also free of charge.)

Gina Munday, owner of the Green Heart collective which was closed down in Anderson but still operates a dispensary in Siskiyou County said that the Sheriff’s presentation did not represent “real patients”.

One speaker said that this ordinance would force patients into the black market. Another said that her cancer was cured by the treatment she got at Queen of Dragons.

After hours of testimony, Chairman Dick Franks said that what he had heard from both sides was that “we don’t like the cartels”. He asked County Counsel, Rubin Cruse about tagging individual plants, but was advised that might be too much like issuing permits, which the State Supreme Court has already ruled against.

Commissioner Franks told the audience, “We don’t have a lot of flexibility to do this in a way that makes a lot of sense.” Someone in the crowd said, “Thank you for your honesty.”

The commissioners hashed it out among themselves for some time as a slightly impatient audience consisting mostly of those opposed to the regulation occasionally interrupted the proceedings. Most of those for the amendment had already given their testimony and left. Many of the reporters had also left by that time. The commissioners seemed to be open to the concerns expressed about apartment dwellers who would not have the option of constructing any kind of out-building.

Commissioner Franks said that this would not be something we will have to live with for ten years. In his opinion the state and federal governments would “get their acts together” on the marijuana issue perhaps in the next couple of years. Any plan enacted by Shasta County would be a sort of interim system until that time.

A vote was taken on the proposed amendment, deadlocking at 2 – 2. Commissioners Parham and Franks voted no while Ramsey and Wallner voted in favor. A tie vote results in failure to pass according parliamentary tradition. A motion was made to refer the matter back to the planning department. They were asked to suggest a new amendment that would allow more flexibility for outdoor grows in “low density” population areas. This passed 3 -1 with Commissioner Ramsey casting the lone negative vote.

What this means is that the newly re-worded amendment to the county code would come back to the Planning Commission at a future date and if passed would then go to the Board of Supervisors to be either enacted or rejected. The bottom line is that there will be two more public meetings at least before anything is enacted.

Posted by Joe McGarity


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