By Deb Murphy
Inyo residents and the Board of Supervisors will get a chance to weigh in on the county’s draft cannabis ordinances at the November 7 meeting. The staff report, ordinance and commercial licensing procedures are all available on the Planning Department website, under current projects.
The 1:30 timed item kicks off an abbreviated version of last spring’s cannabis caravan with public workshops held at the Olancha Fire House, November 8; the Big Pine Town Hall on the 14th, Cerro Coso Community College, on the 15th and the Hurlbutt-Rook Community Center in Tecopa November 16. All the workshops run from 6 to 8 p.m.
So, what’s in the draft ordinance? A decent balance between concerns of those who voted against the advisory measures on last November’s ballot and the majority of voters county-wide who indicated approval of commercial cannabis businesses.
Here are the highlights:
Commercial operations will not be allowed in parcels zoned Residential. The staff report includes the consideration of indoor operations with odor control systems.
Rural Residential zoning through a conditional use permit is still on the table with the possibility of extended buffer zones beyond the 100-feet proposed by staff.
Outdoor cultivation is also tentatively allowed in Open Space and Industrial zones. Alternatives of extended buffers or indoor-only are also included in the report.
California law imposes a 600-foot prohibitive zone from schools or licensed child care facilities for cannabis businesses and a 1,000-foot prohibitive zone from the above to smoke pot. Inyo’s draft adds prohibitive zones around parks and libraries (except in Laws).
The Conditional Use Permit will be the tool of choice for commercial operations as it allows for mitigation and “ensures parcel-specific issues” will be considered, the report states.
There is a frighteningly swift nuisance abatement ordinance that gives the commercial operator seven days to fix the nuisance; five days from notification to hearing and two days to comply with the hearing decision.
Business licenses will be required.
As written, the draft does not put a limit on the number of cannabis business licenses issued in each of the five supervisorial districts but the staff report opens the issue up for discussion.
The licensing process includes an Evaluation Scoring Criteria. Some of the elements of the criteria are security, operating and Community Benefit plans, proposed mitigation, consideration of water sources and residency requirements.
The draft business license ordinance requires annual renewal; the staff report suggests a cap on the number of times a license can be renewed without being open to a competitive process, suggesting a cap of seven to ten years. According to the cannabis consultant, Hinderliter, de Llamas and Associates, “investors expect a return on their investments in five to seven years.”
Depending on who you talk to, Inyo County’s timing is either behind the curve or way ahead. Cal City is reportedly already carving out grow operations; Mammoth Lakes still hasn’t figured out what to do and Sacramento is wrestling with its own multi-agency morass with its January 2018 deadline just two months away.
FROM INYO COUNTY
The Inyo County Board of Supervisors will be holding a workshop at its November 7 meeting to review three draft ordinances that, if enacted, will establish Inyo County’s first set of regulations regarding commercial cannabis activity.
Next Tuesday’s workshop is scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m. in the Board Chambers in the County Administrative Center, 224 N. Edwards St., Independence, adjacent to the Historic County Courthouse.
The workshop will present the Board with an opportunity to hear from staff and the public as it considers moving forward with options for regulating commercial cannabis in the wake of Proposition 64 passing statewide in the 2016 General Election, and with the State scheduled to roll out its commercial licensing program in 2018.
The draft ordinances can be viewed on the County’s website at http://www.inyocounty.us/.
They address three topics – zoning, permitting, and nuisance abatement – and are the culmination of over a years’ worth of research, presentations, public meetings, consultation, and staff conferences as part of an effort to effectively and appropriately respond to game-changing legislation at the State level.
Almost 60 percent of California voters supported Prop 64, which legalized recreational marijuana for individuals aged 21 and older and established State taxes for sales and cultivation. Prop 64 was also supported by a majority of Inyo County voters (54.9 percent), who simultaneously approved Measure I allowing the County to impose a 5 percent gross receipts tax on commercial cannabis businesses.
The County had placed on the same ballot two advisory questions to gauge public sentiment about both medical and commercial cannabis regulations: 1. If Prop 64 passes, should the County adopt a land-use ordinance allowing commercial cannabis businesses (cultivation, processing, manufacturing, sales, etc.) within the County related to medical marijuana; and 2. If Prop 64 passes, should the County adopt a land-use ordinance allowing commercial cannabis businesses (cultivation, processing, manufacturing, sales, etc.) within the County related to recreational marijuana?
Voters answered in the positive to both questions, known as Measures G and H, by margins of 54.56 percent and 53.52 percent, respectively.
With direction from the electorate, the County embarked on a year-long effort to develop those ordinances, forming a staff-level working group comprised of the Agricultural Commissioner, County Counsel and Assistant County Counsel, Planning Director, Public Works Director and the County Administrator.
With input from the consulting firm Hinderliter, de Llamas and Associates, the Cannabis Working Group proceeded with a comprehensive and complex plan that entailed assessing County capacity, developing a means to assess the numbers and types of cannabis businesses operating or likely to operate in the County, and developing a process for moving forward with community and stakeholder outreach in the development of land use ordinances, regulations, policies and procedures necessary to implement measures G, H, and I on a critical timeline.
Initial community and stakeholder input was gathered during 12 public workshops in every community in the County this past spring; the process continues with the presentation of draft land use, license and abatement ordinances on November 7, after which the County will gather additional public input at meetings scheduled for November 8 at the Olancha Fire House, November 14 at the Big Pine Town Hall, November 15 at Cerro Coso Community College and November 16 at the Hurlbutt-Rook Community Center in Tecopa.
As with the previous workshops, public feedback will be delivered back to the Board of Supervisors, this time on December 5. The process of formally adopting the ordinances will likely be initiated thereafter, with the County ever-mindful of the State’s January 1 launch of its licensing program.
Information about upcoming community meetings regarding the County’s draft commercial cannabis ordinances is available on the Inyo County Planning Department’s webpage: