Nevada County shines spotlight on criminal cultivation
County shines spotlight on criminal cultivation
Seven different issues comprised a mid-year report before the Board of Supervisors, but it was cannabis that drew the most comment.
Supervisors have been fielding complaints about blatant violations, and those responsible — illegal growers — do not care because the county does not have the manpower to mitigate their activity, Chairman and Supervisor Dan Miller said. The county is overwhelmed by illegal growers coming into neighborhoods such as Sunshine Valley and 6B Ranch Estates, with total disregard for the peace and quiet that residents have enjoyed for over two decades.
“We need to get rid of the bad people,” Miller said. “We have to tweak our zoning if someone wants to put a grow in what’s not an established neighborhood, so let’s go after the growers doing it illegally.”
He then added, “That’s why I support the use of drones, specifically in the areas where we have complaints, but you can’t see it from the public right-of-way — get the evidence and go in.”
What’s causing the most harm is the environmental degradation caused by the illegal grows, Miller said.
“Cannabis is a board priority, but it’s got to the point where maybe a moratorium on new growth permits is in order so we can get a handle on this,” he said.
The county needs to draw the line against those coming from outside the area and doing whatever they want, regardless of the health and safety of residents, Miller said.
“That’s totally inconsiderate, just wrong,” he said. “And I’ll do everything I can to take away those (illegal) grows from the neighborhoods being affected.”
Diana Gamzon, executive director of the Nevada County Cannabis Alliance, acknowledged the complaints.
“All what the board is saying is real — egregious growers have a significant impact on our neighborhoods,” she said.
Kathryn Madison is a resident of Sunshine Valley. She said that while one illegal cannabis farm is a water problem, 3,500 illegal grows — a Civil Grand Jury estimate — is a water crisis.
“Water is being sucked up for illegal pot farms out of my well, they’re stealing water,“ she said. ”It’s happening in Shasta County and down in the (Central) Valley. This has to change today.”
Madison also said a code compliance officer visited one of her neighbors who has an illegal grow. That grower removed his greenhouse when requested, but retained his plants.
“We need to look one or two years down the road, when 3,500 illegal grows are 5,000 or 6,000,” Madison said. “This is a crisis. And this chamber will be full of Nevada County residents who no longer have water. You do not want to be at that meeting.”
Patricia Holton, another Sunshine valley resident, said she lives across from an illegal grower.
She said this grower has planted 100 trees as a barrier to cover his illegal cultivation. “I think illegal cannabis needs to stop and I think the drone option needs to happen,” she told the board.
Holton added that she checked with the county, and her neighbor has no permit. However, Holton said he intends to grow cannabis again next spring.
“I think if he was already doing an illegal grow, why should he ever get a permit?” she asked. “That’s not right, even if he pays for a permit. If you do it illegally the first time, you should never be allowed again.”
Paul Mallett, another Sunshine Valley resident, said the area isn’t compatible with cannabis cultivation.
“If the county could do something to make these types of areas where they aren’t compatible, allow the homeowners association a say before they give a permit,” Mallett said. “Then maybe that could be considered.”
William Roller is a staff writer with The Union. He can be reached at email@example.com
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Drone pilot program monitoring illegal pot fields have a six month trial next spring