Pubdate: Sat, 01 Aug 2015
Source: Appeal-Democrat (Marysville, CA)
Copyright: 2015 Appeal-Democrat
Author: Eric Vodden


The people who are actually illegally growing marijuana in Yuba 
County aren't always the only ones penalized for violating the 
county's stricter cannabis ordinance.

Property owners, whether they live within view of marijuana gardens 
grown by tenants or are out-of-area and unaware of what renters are 
doing, are subject to fines.

And the penalties imposed aren't exactly chump change - $100 per day 
per violation from the time they are cited. Because each plant is 
considered a violation and it's common to find other code enforcement 
infractions, the penalties can quickly run up to tens of thousands of dollars.

Already, in appeal hearings before the Board of Supervisors, some 
property owners are claming ignorance and citing state laws that 
limit the inspections they can make on their land.

"That is an issue which we acknowledge is an issue," John Vacek, Yuba 
County deputy county counsel, said of out-of-area landlords. "We try 
to take them into account. The problem is we are dealing with some 
property owners who aren't telling the truth."

There are instances, he said, in which the owners rent property 
knowing tenants will grow marijuana.

"I think there is an issue sometimes whether there is actually a 
tenant," Vacek said. "Often there are situations of somebody 
associated with the property owner actually doing the growing."

Supervisors last spring approved a tighter set of restrictions that 
bans outdoor growing and limits indoor plants to a dozen in a 
qualified accessory structure. It's resulted in a deluge of code 
enforcement complaints and responses.

Since June 1, Yuba County has imposed penalties for 4,472 plants on 
93 properties, said Jeremy Strang, chief code enforcement officer. 
Penalties totaling $440,000 have been assessed, though Strang 
acknowledged the county has only collected $40,000.

"That's not going to cover the cost of enforcement by any measure," 
Strang said.

At least for now, there's nothing on paper to differentiate between 
property owners who condone cannabis growing on their properties and 
those who aren't aware of the plants. And there isn't any leeway for 
code enforcement officers to impose anything less than the designated penalty.

Vacek said there has been some discussion of adding provisions to add 
that leeway.

"But it was too difficult to come up with criteria and standards that 
will fit every case," he said.

So it's up to the Board of Supervisors to decide whether property 
owners appealing penalties imposed should be held liable when their 
tenants are found illegally growing marijuana.

Supervisor Roger Abe said the board has to consider appeals on a 
case-by-case basis.

"It's not just a blanket-type thing," Abe said. "We have to look at 
what they have done to put themselves in that position."

Abe acknowledged there have been times when "I have not believed what 
people have said."

"I think the board is looking for something more than 'I didn't 
know,'" Abe said. "Our question is 'what did you do to find out what 
is happening on your property.'"

Earlier this month, supervisors suspended for three years a $34,000 
penalty imposed on the Rocklin-based owners of a Linda mobile home 
park where 98 outdoor plants were found.

Action came with the condition the owners post a bond for the amount 
of the penalty. It will eventually be forgiven as long as there are 
no further code enforcement violations on the property.

However, this week the board followed staff recommendations in 
imposing separate penalties of $50,700 and $30,050 on cases in which 
91 and 86 plants were found on Gledhill Avenue.

Vacek said the issue is part of the growing pains of Yuba County's 
new stricter ordinance.

"We have a new ordinance and we are trying out best to enforce it," Vacek said.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom