Northern California

Cannabis grow site prompts ‘sphere of influence’ fight between city and county

The Fortuna City Council voted unanimously Monday to appeal a cannabis cultivation project approved last month by the Humboldt County Planning Commission.

Council members called the county “evil” and reiterated their frustration that protests over the proposed cultivation fell on deaf ears.

“As a council, we need to stand up to the supervisors and have them tell us, ‘We don’t care about you, Fortuna,’ ” Fortuna Mayor Sue Long said.

The protest is over a proposed 2.7-acre parcel that would be used for indoor commercial cannabis cultivation and processing under the name Humboldt Boutique Gardens.

“The project conflicts with the Fortuna’s marijuana prohibition ordinance, yet it is directly across the street from Drake Hill Road residences and the County should have protected the Sphere of Influence as requested by the City when the County cannabis ordinance was being updated,” the staff report in the agenda packet states.

The city is concerned about impacts related to odor, noise, increased traffic, decreased water quality and crime.

“We’ve seen at other cannabis sites the (county) monitoring doesn’t seem to be effective,” said Fortuna community development deputy director Liz Shorey.

She said many residents of the area where the proposed project would be located came out to the Sept. 20 planning commission meeting that ultimately saw the project approved.

“There were a lot of residents from that area objecting quite eloquently to that project,” she said. “We have diligently through every step protested the project.”

Shorey said one of the concerns is that the project could disrupt the city’s annexation plans. An increase in the number of protests for an annexation plan would effectively cancel the efforts, which she noted were outlined in the city’s General Plan 2030.

Long, who also attended the county planning commission meeting, said all the local protests over the project were ignored.

“I told them over and over doing that (conditional use permit) process, ‘You don’t understand planning,’ ” Long said. “… Obviously, they didn’t listen.”

The city is going to spend $2,263 to file the appeal over the project with the county.

“We do not appreciate the direction the county is going,” said Councilman Dean Glaser. “(The county) is supporting evil.”

Councilwoman Tami Trent voice concerns about odor, which she said is prevalent in some of the grows around the Fortuna area.

“It doesn’t work in neighborhoods,” she said. “The smell is so bad. There is no way to control the smell.”

Glaser added that could affect home values.

“If they don’t have olfactory lobes and can’t smell diddly, no one is going to sell that house,” he said.

“It is a hatred to Fortuna brought on because we don’t play the same liberal game the county plays or that Arcata plays,” he added.

Ruth Schneider can be reached at 707-441-0520.