Nevada County marijuana advisory group talks plant count, setbacks | TheUnion.com

Nevada County marijuana advisory group talks plant count, setbacks

Panelists on Nevada County's marijuana citizen's committee struggled on Tuesday with possible specifics for a new grow ordinance, at times pushing back against questions posed by the county's cannabis consultant.

The 16-member community advisory group, which is developing recommendations for a new cannabis ordinance, found no consensus on whether the future marijuana ordinance should allow outdoor grows on residential properties. They also found little common ground on setbacks and the number of plants that should be allowed.

Cannabis panelists also found problems with questions posed by MIG, Inc. — the county's marijuana consultant — queries MIG hoped would draw general opinions from the group. Panelists said they needed specifics, like whether a grow was personal or commercial, before they could answer.

"You're asking a simple 'yes' or 'no' on a complex question," said Rich Johansen, one of 16 panelists.

Daniel Iacofano, principal with MIG, noted that in past meetings the panel reached 93 percent agreement that county rules should conform with the state's on water supply and quality. It had 87 percent agreement with state regulations calling for a 600-foot setback from schools, parks and child care centers.

Panelists on Tuesday found plenty to disagree about.

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Forrest Hurd, a medicinal cannabis advocate and panelist, said setbacks to a neighboring residential property should depend on parcel size. He favored a 50- to 75-foot setback.

"One or two plants next to tomatoes and peas in a garden don't need to be 150 feet away," Hurd said.

Johansen said, for example, he wouldn't want a neighboring grow to be 200 feet from his residence and 600 feet from the grower's home.

Panelist Jonathan Collier, a member of the Nevada County Cannabis Alliance's executive committee, said setbacks could disqualify cultivation in some cases, if that person's grow was on an oddly shaped parcel.

"Share the nuisance," panelist Lee French said, suggesting a grower's home must be within a certain distance from his or her grow.

The cannabis group also tackled the question of allowing outdoor grows of up to six plants. State law gives homeowners the right to have a maximum of six plants indoors, though local governments can regulate outdoor grows.

Panelists Michael Mastrodonato and Johansen oppose any outdoor grows in residential areas. Mastrodonato referred to information released at the meeting's start. According to that information, only 258 unincorporated county parcels are at least 2 acres, in an R1 zone and not in a homeowners association. That's 0.6 percent of all unincorporated county parcels.

"We're not talking about the general, overall majority of the population," he added. "We're talking about a small portion of it."

Lee French said he had no issue with two to three plants, if neighbors agree. He opposed six plants.

"I am more concerned with the nuisance factor for those immediately around it," French said.

Pivoting to the possibility of commercial marijuana grows, Iacofano asked the panel a series of questions to gauge its opinion.

A majority — 63 percent — of panelists support allowing commercial grows up to 10,000 square feet. Half of the panel supports nurseries of up to an acre that have the ability to transport cannabis.

County officials had intended Tuesday's meeting to be the last for the marijuana group, though they said the final meeting is now scheduled for Nov. 7.

"This is simply one chapter in the process," said Sean Powers, the county's Community Development Agency director.

The advisory panel, once it completes its work, will hand its recommendations to the county. Officials will then pen a draft ordinance. Supervisors have said they'd like the new ordinance in place by March.

To contact Staff Writer Alan Riquelmy, email ariquelmy@theunion.com or call 530-477-4239.