UPDATE: At the request of the applicant, the hearing on Arcata Land Company’s proposed 23-acre cannabis project was continued to a future date.
After enduring a wave of public criticism at a March 18 hearing of the Humboldt County Planning Commission, the proponents of a 22.9-acre cannabis project in the Arcata Bottoms have offered to cut the size of their proposal nearly in half.
In a letter sent to the commission Wednesday, Natalynne DeLapp and Ross Gordon of the Humboldt County Growers Alliance, a cannabis industry organization, say representatives of the project applicant, Arcata Land Company, reached out the previous day to suggest a compromise.
“On March 30,” the letter states, “Arcata Land Company sent HCGA a proposal in writing that suggested a
willingness to reduce the scale of the project to eight acres of mature plant cultivation, and four
acres of nursery space.” The Arcata Land Company is led by Lane DeVries, CEO and president of Sun Valley Floral Farms, which owns the property on which this project is proposed.
Humboldt County Planning and Building Director John Ford confirmed the offer via email, telling the Outpost that the company suggested slashing the size of the industrial grow down to eight acres of cultivation — including 5.7 acres of mixed-light and 2.3 acres light deprivation in hoop house-style greenhouses — and four acres of nursery.
“I do not have more than that right now,” Ford wrote.
DeVries did not respond directly to voicemails, but he let it be known through an intermediary that no one from his organization will be commenting to any reporters until they are ready.
This project has generated a lot of interest, which isn’t surprising considering it would be the largest cannabis cultivation site in Humboldt County by a wide margin and one of the largest in the state. The March 18 Planning Commission hearing was continued due to the volume of public comment, which lasted for several hours. Deliberations are scheduled to continue Thursday evening.
If the Arcata Land Company’s offer was meant to placate some of the fiercest project opponents, it did not succeed — at least, not with HCGA.
A bit of background: DeLapp and Gordon submitted a five-page letter to the commission back on March 15, outlining a range of objections to the project on behalf of the organization’s membership, which is comprised of more than 250 local cannabis businesses.
Size was the major issue for the HCGA, along with many other public commenters. The HCGA’s March 15 letter argued that county officials never intended to allow for such a massive cultivation operation when they were crafting the Commercial Medical Marijuana Land Use Ordinance (aka Ordinance 1.0) or its successor, the Commercial Cannabis Land Use Ordinance (Ordinance 2.0).
“At best, it can
be argued that the [Arcata Land Company] project takes advantage of legal loopholes and oversights in the drafting of
these ordinances,” the letter states, “but we do not see how it can be argued that the project is consistent with the
intent and purpose of these ordinances.”
The letter quotes from Ordinance 2.0, which says, “no more than eight acres
of Commercial Cannabis cultivation permits may be issued to a single Person.”
In the follow-up letter sent Thursday, DeLapp and Gordon say the project proponents believed that their offer to reduce the project down to eight acres of cultivation and four of nursery would satisfy HCGA’s requests. Not so.
“After reviewing the language in Humboldt’s cannabis ordinances, and discussing with our
membership, we do not agree,” the letter says. (Underline in the original.) The letter reiterates the argument that drafters of the county’s weed regulations meant to limit the total cultivation area held by any one person or company to eight acres — nursery space included.
County planning staff has argued otherwise. In fact, Ford addressed this argument head-on during the March 18 meeting.
“I think the size shocks people,” he said. However, he continued, both the CMMLUO (Ordinance 1.0) and the CCLUO (Ordinance 2.0) identified industrial sites like this one as desirable redevelopment opportunities for new cannabis projects. “And so it has been a priority, frankly, of the county to process cannabis cultivation on industrial sites.”
While the 38.2-acre Sun Valley property sits in the midst of lush agricultural fields, it is zoned heavy industrial with a qualified combining zone, aka a “Q zone,” dating back to its previous incarnation as a log deck for the Simpson Lumber Mill.
Thursday’s Planning Commission meeting is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. You can virtually attend via Zoom through this link. The password is 200525.
Last time, though, so many people tried to log in via Zoom that the county reached the maximum allowed to participate, so if Zoom doesn’t work, try calling in: (346) 248-7799. Enter meeting ID 976-3777-7152 and the password: 200525.
And if you’d just like to watch, the meeting will be live-streamed at humboldt.legistar.com and broadcast on cable through Access Humboldt.