Pubdate: Wed, 29 Oct 2014
Source: Times-Standard (Eureka, CA)
Copyright: 2014 Times-Standard
Author: Will Houston


Proposed Highway 299 broadband project secures board's support

The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to 
approve an ordinance aimed at reducing neighborhood nuisances caused 
by the excessive cultivation of medical marijuana in unincorporated areas.

"This is not in any shape or form Humboldt County's approach to 
regulation of marijuana," 2nd District Supervisor Estelle Fennell 
said. "This is addressing a nuisance created by legal medical 
patients growing marijuana and the impact they have on their neighbors."

The land use ordinance limits qualified growers with Proposition 215 
recommendations to 100 square feet of cannabis canopy on land parcels 
an acre in size or less and up to 200 square feet of cannabis canopy 
on property over an acre to 5 acres in size.

The board slightly altered the setback lengths of plants from 
neighboring property lines after 5th District Supervisor Ryan 
Sundberg heard some input on a scenario where growers on larger land 
parcels (1 to 5 acres) were surrounded on three sides by larger 
agricultural parcels. Sundberg said that the person stated this 
scenario would unlikely cause a nuisance to neighbors who own these 
larger parcel sizes.

In response, Lovelace suggested language that would provide some 
flexibility to these situations by requiring cannabis plants to be 
set back within 40 feet of a property boundary line where the 
neighboring parcel is less than 5 acres, or 20 feet from a property 
line where the neighboring parcel is 5 acres or over in size. The 
change differs from the previous draft, which required plants to be 
set back at least 40 feet from all neighboring property lines.

In a straw vote meant to gauge the individual supervisors' feelings 
on the change, 1st District Supervisor and board Chairman Rex Bohn 
was the only supervisor to vote against it.

"We can't address everything," he said after the vote. "We're trying 
to do an ordinance that impacts people and their ability to live in 
their house ... I think if we start breaking out every concern we 
have, this ordinance is going to turn into about 4,000 pages."

The board did not alter the setbacks for grows on parcels under an 
acre in size, which requires a setback of 20 feet or more from 
neighboring property lines. Regardless of the property size, all 
plants require a minimum setback of 600 feet from schools, school bus 
stops, public parks, places of religious worship and traditional 
Native American cultural sites.

Several members of the public attended Tuesday's meeting, which 
concluded nearly three years of work and meetings on the ordinance.

California Cannabis Voice Humboldt Outreach Director Thomas Edrington 
said the fact that it has taken so long to address one issue is an indicator.

"This is not a progressive ordinance," he said. "This is a reactive 
ordinance. This is something that is meant to fix a single problem."

Several supervisors responded to Edrington's statement, with Bohn 
saying he took offense to the comment due to the reason the ordinance 
was drafted.

The ordinance is the second regarding medical marijuana that the 
board has passed, with two more planned regarding regulation of 
medical marijuana dispensaries and large parcel grows above 5 acres. 
The first ordinance the board passed regarded indoor cultivation.

Willow Creek resident E.B. Duggan has attended the majority of both 
the planning commission and the board's discussions on the ordinance 
this year. He said he and other senior citizens in the area have been 
greatly impacted by the smell of marijuana for several years, and 
said some seniors are afraid to leave their home before noon or after dark.

"I see no need for 100, 200, 400 plants on a parcel for medical 
purposes," he said.

Others argued that the smell lasts for an average of six weeks while 
the plants are maturing and that other continual nuisances - with one 
Dinsmore man mentioning his neighbor's "stinky diesel truck" - go overlooked.

Another topic of discussion was enforcement of the ordinance, which 
the board ultimately approved to be through an expedited abatement 
system run by the county code enforcement office. Under the abatement 
process, neighbors are encouraged to work out the issue beforehand to 
see if they can come to an agreement. If not, they can file a 
complaint with the county, whereafter a code enforcement officer will 
send a letter to the alleged violator asking for consent to inspect 
within 10 days. If the officer finds there is a violation - either 
through a consented search or warrant - they will issue an order of 
abatement that must be performed within 14 days. Alleged violators 
can appeal the order to the Board of Supervisors.

With only one code enforcement officer on staff, Deputy County 
Counsel Davina Smith said she would "buy a lottery ticket" if the 
officer would be able to get the matter settled in 25 days.

Bohn then asked, "What you're saying is that it's going to be trimmed 
and bagged before we get there?"

Smith confirmed Bohn's presumption.

Fourth District Supervisor Virginia Bass said that the point of the 
ordinance is to have the community resolve issues before the county 
government even needs to step in.

"I think with the CCV and others who are really getting involved in 
the county and reaching out to neighbors, that's a really important 
step in the process," she said.

Smith advised against the changes to the setbacks, stating that it 
would be difficult to determine whether a grow is set back far enough 
due to the potential setback overlap caused by differing neighboring 
property sizes yielding different setback lengths.

Enforcement on shared parcels, such as apartment complexes and mobile 
home parks, were also discussed, but the board decided that those 
outlying situations can be dealt with at a future date if they arise.

The ordinance will take effect in 30 days and will also require the 
confirmation of the California Coastal Commission for the coastal 
zoning changes.

Bringing in broadband

Earlier in the meeting, the board voted unanimously to begin working 
with Trinity County, the California Center for Rural Policy, bidding 
company Praxis Associates Inc. and other agencies on a project 
proposed to bring redundant broadband connectivity to 16 rural 
communities along Highway 299.

Praxis Associates CEO and President Michael Ort said the fiber optic 
cable would run between Redding to Eureka and connect the two areas. 
The line would contain 432 fibers within it. Only four are being used 
at the moment for similar rural areas, but Ort said that supplies a 
150 gigabyte bandwidth.

"The capacity of the four fibers that we can light up right now ... 
can transmit the entire contents of the Library of Congress in five 
seconds," Ort said. "That is the kind of capacity that we're talking 
about. Then we have 100 times more strands on top of that to reach 
whatever the growth requirements are for that network."

When asked by Bohn how large the cable circumference would be, Ort 
held up his thumb for comparison.

Ort said the construction portion of the project, if reached, would 
be the easy part of the process. What takes a long time is obtaining 
the right of way from CalTrans and other agencies along with permits, 
and addressing environmental considerations.

The proposed fiber optic line would be redundant, meaning people 
would still be able to get service "if somebody else's network goes 
down," Ort said.

Once the line reaches the cities of Eureka and Arcata, Ort said the 
Samoa pulp mill site would be a potential place of interest to stage 
international fiber-optic lines.

If implemented, the fiber optic line would provide broadband service 
to the communities of Korbel, Willow Creek, Salyer, Hawkins Bar, 
Trinity Village. Burnt Ranch, Cedar Flat, Del Loma, Big Bar, Big 
Flat, Junction City, Weaverville, Douglas City, Lewiston and Hayfork.

Though a similar project failed to obtain funding a few years back, 
the board expressed confidence in the past work done by Praxis Associates.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom