Kevin L. Hoover
Mad River Union
ARCATA – In the 2000s, Arcata residents beseeched their political leaders to save them from industrial cannabis grow houses metastasizing throughout their neighborhoods.
Now, with cannabis legal and industry striving to meet demand with supply, some Arcata residents are again appealing to the powers that be to halt creation of a large-scale industrial cannabis grow on the Arcata Bottom.
They see the Arcata Land Company project – approved on April 22 by the county Planning Commission – as bringing a whole new set of problems to their neighborhoods, from traffic to noise to chemical contamination, groundwater, odor and more.
While planning staff and commissioners found that the project checked all the boxes for a site zoned Heavy Industrial with a Qualified Combining Zone – one located much farther away from nearby residences than legally required – opponents believe the project was approved based on inaccurate and inadequate environmental documentation, and that county planning staff failed to properly apply the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The grow foes want an Environmental Impact Report, rather than the less-thorough Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND).
An appeal was filed May 4 by 27th Street resident Jim Cotton on behalf of the group known as Team 27th, which helped raise the $1,638 fee. A hearing before the Board of Supervisors is at least a month away.
Cotton said the project’s application and the attached MND were deeply flawed, containing inaccurate and misleading information. “They just make statements without any evidence,” he said. “It’s crazy.”
For example, he said, the conclusion that the well which will supply the project with water isn’t connected to surface water was supplied not by a qualified hydrologist, but by a well drilling company.
That and other points are made in the letter of appeal.
“The Planning Commission made decisions without accurate information on water and energy,”Cotton said. “It’s difficult to make any decisions without correct information.”
He said members of the Team 27th group have met with Third District Supervisor Mike Wilson, who helped explain the appeal process. Sunday, the group’s strategy committee met to refine its approach to outreach. Their operating philosophy, Cotton said, is to be “bold and courteous.”
Lane DeVries of Arcata Land Company has indicated disinterest in press inquiries. “If there is news, I will call you,” he said via email on April 6, ignoring a subsequent message.
At its April 21 meeting, the Arcata City Council wordsmithed a draft letter to the county Planco outlining the city’s concerns about the proposed grow facility.
The draft lacked any language calling for creation of a full EIR for the project, something councilmembers said had been requested by citizens in correspondence to the council.
“Just more explicitly saying that an EIR would speak to these concerns that are being raised and the review process,” recommended Mayor Sofia Pereira.
“I totally agree with that because that really has been like a main point of what a lot of our constituents have been asking for is that a full EIR should be done,” said Councilmember Sarah Schaefer. “So I think that we should get that message across.”
Other councilmembers agreed, and voted to form a subcommittee of Pereira and Vice Mayor Brett Watson to finalize the council-recommended language.
The letter was presented to the county Planco at its meeting the next night, April 22, by Councilmember Stacy Atkins-Salazar.
But after its publication in the Union, Team 27th members still considered the language suggesting an EIR be conducted as too tentative and conditional, calling the final product a “discrepancy.” Monday, a member said the group may ask that the council further strengthen the EIR request.