Pubdate: Sun, 15 May 2016
Source: Mail Tribune, The (Medford, OR)
Copyright: 2016 The Mail Tribune
Note: Only prints LTEs from within it's circulation area, 200 word count limit
Author: Vickie Aldous


Neighbors Upset About Odors, Noise, Traffic

With the start of the outdoor marijuana growing season, Jackson 
County officials are gearing up for complaints from neighbors upset 
about nearby grows.

Last summer, neighbors complained about skunk-like odors from 
maturing marijuana plants, barking and aggressive guard dogs, people 
camping out to guard and tend crops, traffic, guns and noise.

Although most marijuana plants are still small or haven't been 
transplanted outdoors yet this season, the county is already fielding 

"What we've experienced so far is people had neighbors growing last 
year. They're calling now to complain when the neighbors are not 
doing anything," said Jackson County Development Services Director 
Kelly Madding.

A county ordinance adopted this year allows marijuana to be grown on 
exclusive farm use and forest zones as long as they are at least 250 
feet from city limits. Because of the impact of a new state law on 
county regulations, marijuana can't be grown on rural residential 
zones unless a medical marijuana grower who has grown in the past 
secures a pre-existing, non-conforming use permit. So far, most 
affected growers have not applied for permits.

If people are wondering whether a nearby grow is allowed, they can 
check their neighbor's zone online at

Neighbors and growers also can call the Development Services 
Department at 541-774-6907 with questions about what is allowed.

To see all new county marijuana regulations, visit

The new county regulations generally don't apply to the four 
recreational marijuana plants and six medical marijuana plants adults 
are allowed to grow for personal use under state law. However, people 
in urban residential zones must grow their personal plants inside a 
house or building that isn't a translucent greenhouse.

Enforcement against illegal grows is triggered by complaints.

"Complainants are our eyes out there," Madding said.

Complaints can be made by calling county code enforcement officers at 
541-774-6906. Callers reach a recording and are asked to leave their 
name, phone number and a message.

Madding said there must be proof someone is growing illegally. A 
neighbor could photograph marijuana plants, or a code enforcement 
officer could see the plants in person.

A property owner will receive a warning letter by mail. Medical 
marijuana growers on rural residential land can pay $1,563 and apply 
for a needed permit. Fines of up to $10,000 and the removal of plants 
could be triggered if the grower refuses to seek a permit, but fines 
will not be levied if an application is submitted and pending, Madding said.

When it comes to the skunk-like odor of outdoor marijuana plants in 
the late summer and fall, the county has no regulations. It does 
require odor filtration systems on processing buildings.

Neighbors have complained the odor can be so strong and pervasive, 
it's like having a dead skunk in the house.

Jackson County Commissioner Doug Breidenthal, who regularly fields 
complaints from constituents throughout the county, said odors 
generate the most complaints.

He ranked complaints about increased traffic to grow sites second, 
and concerns about noise third.

"There are landowners who share a right-of-way with growers who have 
been stopped or had their friends stopped by the security the grower 
puts in place," Breidenthal said. "It's intimidating."

Pete Gendron, president of the SunGrown Growers' Guild that 
represents outdoor growers, said the best way to reduce conflicts is 
to be a good neighbor.

"I see my neighbors on a regular basis. I'm respectful of their 
privacy. We keep our place neat and clean, and we keep normal, sane 
hours," Gendron said. "Not walking around open-carrying firearms 
should be a no-brainer. Not blaring music at 2 a.m. should be a 
no-brainer. A certain percentage of growers won't get over their 
18-year-old attitudes."

He said most growers strive to be respectful and professional.

As for barking and aggressive guard dogs, Jackson County Animal 
Services Enforcement Supervisor Jon Rhodes said neighbors can call 

"Neighbors usually want to work it out themselves. They usually call 
to get information. They want to be neighborly," he said.

Rhodes said animal services workers encourage neighbors to talk to each other.

"Sometimes that's not possible. The neighbor may not be approachable, 
or the marijuana grow is a fortress," he said.

If needed, the county can send a letter notifying a dog owner about a 
problem, which usually solves the situation. If the problem 
continues, the dog owner could be cited and fined.

If a dog is a chronic nuisance and keeps barking, a neighbor should 
keep a barking log and take note of when and why the dog barks. 
Barking because a car pulls up, someone comes on the property or the 
mail is delivered is acceptable behavior. Repeated barking and 
howling for no reason is not, Rhodes said.

He said the county can't do anything about dogs at a grow site that 
just look aggressive. They must engage in aggressive behavior. Most 
dogs at grow sites don't count as aggressive dogs because they don't 
leave the property, which is often fortified.

Under the county's animal control regulations, a dog can be deemed 
dangerous if it menaces, chases or bites a person or pet, or if it 
chases, wounds or kills livestock. In extreme cases, dogs can be 
impounded and euthanized.

Neighbors upset about recreational vehicles and camping tents 
proliferating around grow sites do have recourse through county code 

Madding said people can't camp out to guard or tend marijuana grows.

The Oregon Health Authority requires grows to be screened from public 
view, such as from roads. The county has added regulations that 
fencing cannot be temporary - meaning that plastic sheeting and tarps 
many view as unsightly are not allowed.

Madding said if a neighbor or grower ever feels physically 
threatened, that is not a code enforcement issue and the Jackson 
County Sheriff's Office should be called.

In emergencies, call 911. The non-emergency business number for the 
Sheriff's Office is 541-774-6800.

Jackson County sheriff's Capt. Nathan Sickler said deputies work 
closely with code enforcement officers since multiple problems can 
arise at a grow site.

"It's a crime if they are growing way outside their allowed amounts 
of marijuana or if there is other criminal activity stemming from the 
grow site," he said. "If numerous RVs are parked there or trash is 
piled up, that is an issue for code enforcement."

Sickler said he has heard repeated complaints about odor, increased 
traffic on shared driveways, multiple people staying at a grow site 
and guns. Neighbors upset about odors might be referred to mediation.

Unlike in cities, he said there is no prohibition in rural parts of 
the county against firing guns, as long as it's done in a safe manner.

"Some people move out to the country for the peace and quiet. Others 
move out to make noise and shoot guns," Sickler said.

He encouraged upset neighbors to do a little research to find out 
whether a nearby grow is legal for its zone.

"If a person has a legal operation, and someone is calling the police 
on them, that can cause consternation," he noted.

Sickler said people shouldn't hesitate to call about dangerous situations.

"If anybody thinks their safety is in jeopardy, always call," he 
said. "If they think it's volatile or dangerous, we want to help them out."
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