Update: October 1, 2021
140 residents of Bennett Ridge signed a petition and sent it to the county. Click here to read the petition.
Update: September 21, 2021
Bennett Valley Residents Participate in County Cannabis “Visioning” Meeting
By Chris Gralapp
Several residents represented Bennett Valley’s interests during an hour-long
meeting with Sonoma County’s Permit and Resource Management Department
(PRMD) in August. PRMD is preparing a staff report for the board of supervisors
with options to consider with regard to the “vision” of what Sonoma County’s
commercial cannabis program should achieve. You can view the one-hour
PowerPoint here (with audio, start at minute 2:00) and the slides only on PDF here.
Among the issues covered were the Bennett Valley Area Plan’s land use policies, cultivation problems on narrow roads, water supply, impacted wildlife, fire hazards, odor,
aesthetics, and poor enforcement at existing grows.
Our vision for Bennett Valley is an immediate moratorium on commercial cannabis permitting while the county prepares its environmental impact report. We want to ban cultivation in Bennett Valley by designating all land in our area plan a
commercial cannabis-free exclusion zone. Our area plan’s overall objective is to
preserve and protect the traditional rural character and natural environment of
Bennett Valley. Commercial cannabis operations do not belong here. They disturb
neighbors by creating heavy traffic on narrow rural roads, generate offensive odors
that can travel long distances, create visual blight with hoop houses and industrial-
looking greenhouses, and use too much water in a Class 3 water zone. Besides
affecting water supplies of neighbors’ wells, this can harm sensitive and endangered species in the Matanzas Creek watershed. Commercial cannabis operations are an attractive nuisance that can stimulate criminal activity in an area that is underserved by the sheriff’s department. Sheriff response times here can be half an hour or more. The county’s record of enforcing the requirements of its own
cannabis ordinance has been very poor, and we have little confidence that any
protections it contains for neighbors will ever be effective. One county official told a neighbor who complained about the effects of a problematic cultivation site that if she didn’t like it, she could move somewhere else. This attitude is unacceptable
in Bennett Valley.
The Board of Supervisors will consider this information when it holds a three-hour
workshop on the goals of the cannabis program on Tuesday, September 28 at 8:45am supervisors will direct the PRMD staff on the country’s goals in drafting a revised ordinance. We urge you to contact Supervisor Gorin (Susan.Gorin@sonoma-
county.org) to tell her that we want Bennett Valley to be designated a commercial
cannabis-free exclusion zone.
1. WATCH LIVESTREAM:
Once the meeting has started, click the “In Progress” hyperlink to begin viewing.
2. JOIN THE ZOOM MEETING:
Participate by computer, tablet, or smartphone application:
Go to: https://sonomacounty.zoom.us/j/92116245755?pwd=WldsU3ZLN1ZpakZVSmFSRzhVYTFhZz09
Meeting ID: 921 1624 5755
Enter Password: 353649
Participate by phone:
Dial +1 (669) 900 9128
Enter meeting ID: 921 1624 5755 Enter password: 353649
Public Comment may be made via email or during the live zoom meeting. To submit an emailed public comment to the Board email email@example.com. Please provide your name, the agenda number(s) on which you wish to speak, and your comment. These comments will be emailed to all Board members. Public comment during the meeting can be made live by joining the Zoom meeting using the above provided information. Available time for comments is determined by the Board Chair based on agenda scheduling demands and total number of speakers.
Update: July 13, 2021
Board of Supervisors Rejects Proposed Cannabis Ordinance
By Craig S. Harrison
The board of supervisors rejected on May 18 the proposed cannabis ordinance, and voted unanimously to undertake a full environmental impact report (EIR). Key to the decision was County Counsel’s warning that the objections filed by the law firm Shute Mihaly & Weinberger on behalf of Save Our Sonoma Neighborhoods, Neighbors of Liberty Valley LLC, and Friends of Mark West Watershed put the county in legal jeopardy. The county was violating the California Environmental Quality Act, and three different groups were poised to litigate.
For now, growers cannot receive backroom ministerial permits in 30-60 days to plant 5-10 acre grows in Bennett Valley without public notice. The county has issued a schedule with milestones for preparing the EIR. Scoping workshops, where decisions will be made about the issues that must be addressed in the EIR, are scheduled to be conducted the week of August 9 and be decided by the supervisors on September 28. The entire EIR process will take about three years.
Commercial marijuana projects already in the pipeline under the current ordinance will continue to be processed, as well as any new proposed projects under that ordinance. The ongoing operations on 4050 Grange Road, 2274 Wellspring Road, and 3803 Matanzas Creek Lane can continue. In addition, there have been several recent applications for new ministerial permits under the existing ordinance.
In April, a grower applied for and may have received at least four ministerial permits to cultivate marijuana at 5310 Enterprise Road (parcel 055-030-003). The Agriculture Department received applications for ministerial cannabis cultivation permits at 2121 Wellspring Road (parcel number 055-150-017), but the county determined mitigation was needed for certain issues so the applicant must apply for a conditional use permit.
The 60-acre parcel at 7044 Bennett Valley Road was purchased by an LLC in February for $2.6 million, and the owners told the county they intend to plant industrial hemp. Hemp has lower THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) levels than marijuana, but smells the same and uses as much water. The supervisors decided to allow hemp cultivation in late 2019, which is mostly used for CBD oil. Little hemp has been grown in Sonoma County so far because there is a national oversupply and much of it goes unsold (Hemp prices 'race to the bottom,' souring grower enthusiasm). If neighbors are subject to noxious odors from hemp, they can file a nuisance suit under California’s Right to Farm Law, but must do so within three years.
Industrial Hemp Cultivation
Finally, if you suspect an illegal grow that is drawing water from our depleted watershed during the current severe drought, contact Code Enforcement at Permit Sonoma online. Anonymous complaints are not allowed, but you can request that your name and contact information be kept confidential. You can also email PRMD Director Tennis Wick directly and he will protect your confidentiality.