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Sonoma County Gazette
Sonoma County cannabis

UPDATE on Commercial Grows
in Residential Neighborhoods

Jan 3, 2018


After the December 6th meeting of the Cannabis Advisory Group, members Brantly Richardson and Rich Gunderson co-authored the following summary of an update given to the Group by Code Enforcement at Permit Sonoma.

Richardson and Gunderson were appointed to represent the neighborhoods on the 20-member group which will advise during the Phase II implementation of the ordinance adopted by the Board of Supervisors in 2016.

 This ordinance prohibits the cultivation of cannabis after January 1, 2018 in unincorporated areas of the County which are zoned RR, AR, and for AG parcels less than two acres. Code Enforcement has to date rec’d 507 cannabis complaints concerning parcels in RR and AR zones and has inspected approximately 300. So far 68 operations have shut down.

After receiving a complaint, Code Enforcement sends a letter to the property owner informing them that the County has rec’d a complaint and asking to inspect the property. Most everyone complies with this request. Before visiting the property, the Code Enforcement officer contacts the person who filed the complaint to ascertain what to expect and whether it might be dangerous. In some cases, the Code Enforcement officer will ask law enforcement to accompany them for the inspection. 

If the owner of the parcel refuses to allow inspection, it is easier for Permit Sonoma to seek a “reasonable” warrant from a judge to force inspection than it would be for law enforcement. This is because it is considered a land use violation and not a criminal one per se.

Of the remaining 232 properties that have been inspected and remain in operation, none had serious health and safety issues nor were they in violation of any conditions (land use, building, water, septic, etc.) of their permits and could continue operations until January 1, 2018 providing they had also filed for the Penalty Relief extension.

After January 1, 2018the Code Enforcement officer will revisit the property to assure the grow is abated. Permit Sonoma is currently preparing letters for all known grow sites in AR or RR zones, requesting to schedule the close-out verification inspections in early January.

The majority of the complaints have been valid and not frivolous. The properties inspected had been used for cultivation or were still being used for cultivation.

Permit Sonoma has a total of 7 Code Enforcement officers and hopes to have an 8th on board in January. No additional hiring is possible. None of the officers specialize in cannabis complaints, and all the officers handle a wide variety of complaints. Those complaints deemed to be of greatest importance receive priority. Complaints involving health and safety, environmental abuses or criminal activity move to the top of the list. Some of the other issues voiced by those who file a cannabis complaint are: smell, unsupervised children at the site, excessive traffic, perimeter pot fences and so on.

Submitted by Cannabis Advisory Group members Brantly Richardson and Rich Gunderson 


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