Humboldt takes aim at unlicensed growers, Planco OKs McK subdivision

Daniel Mintz
Mad River Union

 HUMBOLDT – ​Humboldt County’s planning director has reported that 452 commercial cannabis permits have been approved to date but about 500 interim permit holders are operating without state licenses.

​Planning Director John Ford updated the Planning Commission on the permitting scenario at its Aug. 1 meeting.

​The county’s has a backlog of about 1,800 permit applications waiting to be processed. Holders of interim permits – which were approved on a temporary basis as a state licensing system ramped up – are included in the backlog.

​“One of the things that we’re doing is we’re going through and evaluating applications and sorting out those that have interim permits but are not making progress and moving forward,” Ford told commissioners. “The larger and more egregious ones, especially those that are still cultivating even without state licenses – we will be bringing those to the Planning Commission for action.”

​He added that a batch of about 500 applicants “have just done virtually nothing and we need to take some action on those to close those out.”

​The county has sent abatement notice letters giving the inactive applicants 30 days to respond. “Many of them have not responded,” Ford said.

He added that his department doesn’t want to divert efforts away from processing permits but targeting inactive applicants “will be among the things that we work on.”

​“So by letting those that are not moving forward linger, is that allowing them to have some protection from getting busted by the sheriff?” asked Commissioner Mike Newman.

​Describing the query as “a great question,” Ford said that “if they’re just using the interim permit as a way to prolong their ability to cultivate in the illegal or illicit market, those are the priority sites that we want to address.”

​Ford related that on the day of the meeting, his staff dealt with interim permit holders who are operating without a state license. “So we’re going to be talking to them about where they’re at and whether they’re working with the state to get licenses – and they’re not small,” he said.

​Those who have county interim permits but don’t have state licenses “have no ability to sell in the legal market,” Ford continued.

​Asked if the state’s cannabis licensing officials are concerned about the situation, Ford said, “I think they are but frankly, they have limited people power.”

​He added, “I think they recognize that we’ve been pretty proactive with addressing illegal cultivation sites and they absolutely want to work with us and will.”

​Local enforcement will continue. “One of the things we hope to do is take care of Humboldt County and keep the enforcement action there current,” said Ford. “And the sheriff is obviously out there doing incredible work also.”

Subdivision approved

​Also at the meeting, commissioners approved a minor subdivision of a 22,000 square foot parcel in McKinleyville fronting Hiller Road. The parcel will be split into three lots and the applicant, Tony Ellena, requested that a sidewalk requirement be eliminated.

​Sidewalk development is often described as being lacking in McKinleyville but commissioners were receptive to the request in this case. Sidewalks would be developed on each side of a private road leading into the subdivision and would serve a limited number of residents.

​“This is a prime example of what we need to change in Humboldt County, this ‘one size fits all’ and ‘sidewalks everywhere’ and everything has to be the same,” said Commissioner Alan Bongio, who is a developer. “And this one being three lots, it makes no sense to require that much sidewalk expense and create more impervious surfaces so the water doesn’t have someplace to go.”

​Other commissioners agreed. Commissioner Noah Levy acknowledged the comments of the applicant’s agent, who had said that sidewalks would take space away from the front yards of the subdivision’s residents.

​Commissioner Melanie McCavour supports non-concrete walkways and noted that the proposed sidewalk areas are grassy and can be walked on.

​Commissioners unanimously approved the subdivision without the sidewalks. The commission’s McKinleyville residents, Peggy O’Neill and Brian Mitchell, weren’t at the meeting. 


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