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Letter: Restrict commercial cannabis to designated zones 

marijuana slo county

To the editor,

Put commercial cannabis where it belongs in designated zoned areas within SLO County

The cannabis industry has misinterpreted the commercial cannabis grow issues in SLO County. It’s simple – we do not want commercial cannabis grows forced next to family neighborhoods or traditional agriculture farms.

The issue of industrial/commercial cannabis grows in SLO County is not about cannabis use, it is about compatible land use.

Do not permit commercial cannabis operations near residential agriculture neighborhoods or traditional agriculture farms. Sell it, smoke it, inhale it or ingest it, but don’t commercially grow or manufacture cannabis next to family homes, neighborhoods or traditional agriculture. There are thousands of acres of land in remote areas of SLO County where cannabis can be grown commercially that will not disrupt rural residential communities. Grow it in a designated remote industrial/commercial zone.

Why should the greed of one cannabis operator over-rule the rights of an entire community, family homes, businesses, and farms? Common sense, fairness, decency, and the right-thing-to-do is to not force these commercial cannabis operations next to rural family homes in SLO County.

There is now in SLO County a significant conflict between residential agriculture land use and cannabis applicants’ seeking windfall profits and the SLO County’s Board of Supervisors drive for new tax revenues.

Let’s look at the commercial cannabis disaster in Santa Barbara County…

The cannabis industry and our Board of Supervisors ignore the facts regarding the commercial cannabis disaster that is Santa Barbara County. Their policy on cannabis forces commercial operations in residential agriculture and next door to traditional farming. The results have been socially and financially devastating. Countless lawsuits are now pending. (See references below)

Skunk like cannabis odors, excessive water use impacting and closing residential wells, increased commercial traffic on country and private access roads, pesticide drift liability burden on traditional agriculture, decline in property values, excessive electrical energy uses on limited rural grids, attraction of criminal elements to the surrounding neighborhoods and the unknown impacts to the environment and surrounding agriculture lands are all real-life disasters in Santa Barbara County.

These facts illustrate why SLO County should not repeat the Santa Barbara County disaster of commercial cannabis operations.

To illustrate the lack of compatible land use for commercial cannabis operations in SLO County, I raise a specific project currently being reviewed by the planning department just outside my town of Creston.

The Webster Road Associates LLC cannabis project is on a 10-acre parcel next door to the rural town of Creston at 6565 Webster Road. The applicants propose to develop a 56,000 square foot industrial complex, that includes an 18,000 s.f. cannabis nursery, 22,000 s.f. indoor cannabis grow, 7,200 s.f. headhouse space, areas for packaging, warehouse, security and distribution.

This project is like having a Paso Robles Walmart-sized factory forced directly into our rural town of Creston. There is nothing comparable in size or industrial scope to this project in the entire Creston area. It is similar to a pharmaceutical plant, distillery, food processing, manufacturing, packaging, and warehouse all-in-one industrial commercial complex. This is not agriculture or farming by any definition.

Any industrial factory like this does not fit in a residential agriculture community. It is not a compatible land use for Creston and our neighborhoods and families, nor the traditional agriculture surrounding the town.

This huge industrial complex is planned less than 1,200 feet from the elementary school playground. Neighborhood homes are less than 400 feet from the proposed site. The town center of Creston, with neighborhoods, restaurants, general store, post office, church, and boutique, is within 2,000 feet from this huge proposed cannabis industrial complex.

Who is bringing this factory operation to Creston? Two commercial real estate brokers with offices in the San Francisco Bay Area. On March 22, the Creston Advisory Body (CAB) conducted a site visit with the developers. This visit was in preparation for the CAB review of this project on Wednesday, April 21, 2021, as part of the planning department permit process. Over 28 Creston neighbors attended this site visit. Without exception, every resident was opposed to this project proposal.

The CAB and the Creston Community designated CAB’s geographical boundaries a “Cannabis Free Zone” from commercial cannabis operations. This has been communicated and documented to the SLO County Planning Department, planning commission and SLO County Board of Supervisors and is a matter of public record.

Commercial cannabis projects like this Webster Road Associates LLC operation are not compatible land use in Creston – or any residential community in San Luis Obispo County.

The solution for the SLO County Board of Supervisors is simple. Do not force commercial cannabis operations into our neighborhoods where existing residents and community do not want this type of industrial complex.

Let’s not repeat the commercial cannabis disaster of Santa Barbara County – here in SLO County. Put these commercial cannabis operations in designated industrial/commercial zones.

It’s about compatible land use, not cannabis use.

Jim Wortner
Creston

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