County planners may decide the fate of a proposed commercial hash lab and cannabis food kitchen in McKinleyville at a public hearing next week.
The Humboldt County Planning Commission will meet Thursday, Feb. 2 at 6 p.m. to consider a special permit for HMCP Humboldt LLC to open what it is calling a “medical cannabis manufacturing facility” at 3445 Central Ave. in part of an existing building occupied by Hooven & Co. Inc.
The county was prepared to give HMCP Humboldt LLC – owned by brothers Tim, David and Pat Hooven – a permit last month unless someone demanded a hearing. Three residents ended up doing so by the Dec. 13 deadline. All three of the letters came from residents of Johnson Lane, located just north of the Hooven & Co. building across from the county’s main airport.
Residents have expressed concerns about the safety of the lab and the criminal characters that they say may be attracted to the facility.
But according to information submitted by the company to the county Planning Department, the lab will have extensive security measures. Occupying 800 square feet, the lab would have one to three employees, all of whom would have to pass criminal background checks. The lab would not be open to the public, nor would there be any retail sales.
Only licensed cannabis transportation companies would be allowed to transport cannabis products to and from the facility, according to the company.
With regard to butane extraction and other hash production techniques, the entire operation would need to be designed and approved by professionals such as engineers, according to the company. The facility would need to be in compliance with Cal-OSHA requirements, as well as those dictated by the Arcata Fire Protection District.
But for the nearby residents on Johnson Lane, the lab is perceived as a crime magnet and something that will be disruptive to their bucolic neighborhood.
“No one is affected by this decision more than me,” stated Johnson Lane resident Deborah Sisk in her letter to the county. “My residence backs up against this property. We share a back fence.” Sisk wrote that she owns two other properties on Johnson Lane, where her daughter, daughter’s husband and grandchildren live.
“I am highly concerned for my safety, and my family’s safety over the criminal element that this will attract,” Sisk wrote.
Jennifer Reiske expressed similar concerns in her letter asking for a hearing.
“I am concerned that this production site will draw theft, loiters and cause trespassing on my property and most importantly my parents’ property,” Reiske wrote.
“My family will fight this with everything we have,” Reiske states. “We are fighting for our future, our children’s wellbeing and the safety of our neighborhood.”
The third letter to the county was submitted by Johnson Lane resident Thom Bosswell, who asked for a public hearing but did not elaborate about his concerns.
The McKinleyville Union School District has also opposed the hash lab. The district recommended denial of the project when it was asked by the county to comment on the lab last April.
“Our reservations are based on the fact that MUSD has three schools in proximity to the proposed facility and there would be concern [about the] influence and impact a marijuana manufacturing facility could have on students,” states District Superintendent Alan W. Jorgensen in a response to the county. The district oversees three schools: Dow’s Prairie Elementary at the north end of town, Morris School on McKinleyville Avenue and McKinleyville Middle School in the downtown area.
The Arcata Fire District has not opposed the facility, but made it clear that the lab must be properly designed and operated.
“Depending on the type of extraction process, applicant will be required to meet the most stringent requirements for the specific processing,” Jenny Williamson, on behalf of the Arcata Fire Protection District, wrote in a response to the county.
Planning staff is recommending approval of the special permit. The Thursday, Feb. 2 meeting begins at 6 p.m. in the Board of Supervisors Chambers at the Humboldt County Courthouse, 825 Fifth St. in Eureka.
Jack Durham is editor of the Mad River Union. Subscribe here.