Pubdate: Sat, 16 Feb 2013
Source: Record Searchlight (Redding, CA)
Copyright: 2013 Record Searchlight
Author: Jenny Espino


A group of Redding residents hopes to persuade the City Council to 
ban outdoor marijuana grows.

For now, the group is circulating a missive in Redding and Shasta 
Lake neighborhoods urging residents to write letters to their local lawmakers.

"People have a right to do what they want to do, but I have a right 
to breathe fresh air, and I shouldn't have to go into these 
explanations with my kids," said Trish Phillips, who this week wrote 
a letter to all five councilors. In it, she expresses her 
frustrations about unusual activity in her neighborhood on the city's 
west side and the strong odor of fresh marijuana that permeates the 
air in the summertime.

Phillips said she was encouraged to write to the council by an 
anonymous letter left at her home. She sent copies of her letter to 
70 people, and at least 20 in her neighborhood - many who have young 
children - planned to follow through, she said.

City code allows small outdoor medical marijuana cultivations at home 
for use by no more than three patients. It spells out setback, 
security and screening requirements for the cultivation sites.

Since council passed the zoning change three years ago, the city has 
gotten its share of complaints about the outdoor grows. But the 
amount remains manageable.

Code enforcement averages a total of 1,500 complaints each year, 
ranging from overgrown weeds to abandoned vehicles to leaky roofs and 
mold at buildings.

Of those complaints, 54 were related to outdoor grows last year. The 
year before, 25 complaints were logged.

"They make up a small part of our work, although it seems that they 
take up a lot of time," said Bill Nagel, development services 
director, explaining how his staff spends about 10 hours on each 
case, from contacting the respondent to coming to a resolution.

So far, none of the complaints have resulted in citations.

Part of the reason for that is most complaints are made in August and 
September, about the same time the plants are being harvested.

"They get planted in spring. They're small and no one notices them. 
Then they get big and smelly," said Nagel of how most complaints are 
triggered by the noxious plant odors. "The wheels of justice can only 
turn so fast. But by then it's harvest season."

Vice Mayor Patrick Jones said in the past few weeks he has received 
about 25 letters from angry residents.

Jones, who cast the lone dissenting vote three years ago, was 
sympathetic to the concerns raised by the letter writers. He was 
unsure what steps the council could take to remedy the situation, 
except to wait for the outcome of several medical marijuana cases 
that are still pending in court.

"We're down a path we should have not allowed," he said and added 
that as a result, the city now struggles with these issues. "It's 
going to be incumbent on the public to come forward to let (the 
council) know what is going on within the city limits."

Based on the number of letters and calls he has received, he said he 
was confident "the public has got this handled."

Phillips said she complained to police late last summer about an 
outdoor grow next to her house. The case was referred to the city's 
code enforcement, which determined the grower had more than 60 
plants. The grower complied and removed the plants and some tarps, 
and the case was closed.

She said Redding should take note of other California cities, such as 
Fresno, that have banned outdoor grows and follow suit.

The campaign is starting early to avoid having to go down the same 
path as last year when she had to keep her windows shut at all times 
and feel insecure with random strangers wandering through the 
neighborhood, Phillips said.

"I don't want to deal with this. It'd be easier with a law that says 
it is illegal," she said.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom