Downsized Arcata Bottom grow approved

BOTTOMS GROW This now-obsolete map shows a previous 8-acre “reduced scale alternative,” which has been further reduced. The Board of Supervisors eliminated the 2.3 acres of outdoor light-deprivation greenhouses and added several conditions of approval. The neighborhood at right is Westwood Village. Via County of Humboldt

Arcata Land Co. cannabis op will start at one acre, expand incrementally if CUP conditions are satisfied

Kevin L. Hoover
Mad River Union

ARCATA BOTTOM – The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors Tuesday approved what may become a 5.7-acre cannabis grow operation for applicant Arcata Land Co., controlled by Sun Valley Floral Farm.

Originally proposed for 22.9 acres, the Planning Commission later approved a reduced-size 8-acre project comprising 2.3 acres of outdoor light-deprivation cultivation 5.7 acres of mixed-light cultivation in enclosed greenhouses. The approved project eliminates the 2.3-acre component.

A number of other conditions were also applied to the project, including solarizing the operation over a five-year period, establishment of an adjacent, 500-foot organic easement and creation of a bicycle-pedestrian trail along Foster Avenue.

In addition, county officials may make up to four no-notice inspections to verify compliance with the Conditional Use Permit. County staff will also follow up on any odor complaints.

The odor issue proved to be the project's weakest point, and successfully one used by opponents to leverage restrictions. While the applicant had initially promised that the full 23.7 acre project and subsequent iterations would be completely odor-free, they nonetheless announced on June 22 the addition of a completely new system – the Byers Scientific “vapor-phase odor control system.”

If any odor violations are verified, Arcata Land Company will have 15 days to develop a solution and 30 days to implement it. Should odor problems persist, the county can order that cultivation be halted.

During the first appeal hearing on June 22, Third District Supervisor Mike Wilson proposed starting with one acre with an ultimate cap of two acres as part of a phased expansion contingent on satisfying odor control and other conditions. That proposal gained support from other supervisors and even project opponents organized as "Team 27th."

The downsizings and restrictions followed persistent opposition by Team 27th and other land use activists. They'd continued to demand that no project be approved without an EIR being conducted rather than a less exhaustive Mitigated Negative Declaration of environmental impact, but recently softened their position to endorse Wilson's one acre, phased implementation only as a fallback position.

After lengthy discussion and pro and con testimony from the public, Second District Supervisor Michelle Bushnell moved to allow an initial grow of a single acre, with an additional acre being allowed following successful completion of an odor-free, four-month grow cycle. (Oddly, Bushnell continually referred to restrictions on what she called "smell," rather than "odor," the term used in the accompanying regulatory documents.)

Sun Valley CEO Lane DeVries agreed to the concessions while pushing for the full 8 acres to be approved. Throughout the process, First District Supervisor Rex Bohn also strongly advocated for the largest possible project, lamenting several times the project's ongoing shrinkage and calling it a "Ponzi scheme" and a "bait and switch" approach.

But Wilson said he couldn't support any project of that scale, nor could Bushnell. "There's no intention on my part to just negotiate up to 8 acres," Wilson said. "If this is a vehicle to go up to 8 acres... there's no way."

The supervisors approved the redefined project on 3-2 vote, with Wilson and Fifth District Supervisor Steve Madrone dissenting. Wilson had indicated no interest in any project larger than 2 acres, and Madrone also said that despite the concessions and conditions, at 5.7 acres the project remained too large.
Clarified Wilson, "it did not conform with the intent of the land use designation in the general plan that the community and the city supported in the last update approved by the BOS in 2017."


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