Mad River Union
BLUE LAKE – What one Humboldt County supervisor described as a “painful process” has been resolved as county planners will work with Blue Lake cannabis farm operators to find an alternate site.
At its March 16 meeting, the Board of Supervisors took up an appeal of the Planning Commission’s permit denial of a 10,000 square-foot cannabis grow in the Blue Lake community plan area.
The board appeal hearing was the second for the modestly-sized cannabis farm, which is located at the end of the narrow and isolated Warren Creek Road.
Last summer, supervisors asked that the farm’s owners, Rocci and Laura Costa, meet with neighbors who had complained about public safety issues related to the farm property.
Planning staff came to the hearing with a seemingly agreed-upon solution – the Costas would move their farm under the county’s Retirement, Remediation and Relocation (RRR) program. Under those rules, the Costas would move to a different site and be allowed twice the cultivation area.
But Laura Costa told supervisors that the meeting with the neighbors also included an important condition – “An apology letter from the neighbors, admitting their negligent misrepresentation against our family and our character.”
She added, “We agreed to these terms under duress, with no other option to clear our name or have a farm.”
But during a public comment period, Michael Fields, a Warren Creek Road resident who was part of the community meeting with the Costas, gave a different account of what had happened.
“The process worked and what is before you today is the solution that was arrived at,” he said, adding that “a formal apology was never a condition of this agreement.”
He thanked the Costas and his neighbors for their willingness to negotiate and said that “the process that was proposed actually worked and worked well.”
Other Warren Creek Road residents and representatives of the Costas gave contrasting accounts of the meeting and its outcomes.
Others, including Natalynne DeLapp, executive director of the Humboldt Growers Alliance, vouched for the Costas’ integrity.
In the previous hearings, multiple neighbors gave accounts of troubling incidents related to the farm property.
Rocci Costa had told the Planning Commission, then the Board of Supervisors, that there had been what he described as squatters on the property and he had to take action to evict them.
The farm is in Supervisor Mike Wilson’s district. He described the review process as “painful” said the relocation agreement is “painful but it gets us through this.”
Supervisors readied to approve the RRR agreement but in response to the Costas’ doubts about moving to a distant alternate site in Honeydew, Supervisor Michelle Bushnell grasped for consensus.
She suggested that the county help the Costas find a site closer to Blue Lake and asked if they would agree to move to the Honeydew site if another can’t be found.
“If the county makes a sincere effort to help us find a receiving spot, we would very much appreciate that,” said Costa.
Doing so would be “a great gesture” and a “great olive branch,” she continued.
Costa also asked that a senior planner be assigned to their permit.
Planning Director John Ford said those terms “can be accommodated.”
That settled the matter, as supervisors unanimously voted to approve the Costas’ appeal of the permit denial under the terms discussed by Bushnell and Laura Costa.