Ray Krauss, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
On Tuesday, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors will decide whether to address the severe compatibility problems with cannabis cultivation in rural neighborhoods. Last year, the supervisors committed to fixing these problems but ultimately refused to do much.
The supervisors need to acknowledge the fundamental issue. The reason there are so many “problem sites” is that they turned the planning process upside down. Even if all current problem sites were denied permits, there will be more applications for cannabis cultivation at different problem sites.
The proper way to proceed is to identify sites that are suitable, based on a set of planning criteria, rather than identifying problem sites after a permit is requested. That is how all other planning is done. In preparing general plans and zoning maps, planners identify those areas where specified uses are environmentally suitable and compatible with surrounding uses. Thus, we end up identifying commercial zones, industrial zones, multi-family residential zones (apartments and condos) and residential zones. Those areas not so identified don’t allow any of these uses.
The county should return to normal zoning. It should evaluate environmental and land use information and identify areas where cannabis grows are suitable, based on such criteria as:
— Availability of water, power, sewer and storm water drainage.
— Groundwater basins where water use won’t adversely affect the environment.
— Adequate and safe road access.
— Avoiding incompatible residential sites, schools, parks, trails and recreation sites.
— Accessibility to law enforcement.
— Avoiding risks of wildfire, landslides, flooding and other natural hazards.