- TODAY [Aug. 25, 2020] in SUPES: Blue Lake Cannabis Farm Supported by Industry Colleagues But Vehemently Opposed by Neighbors
- TODAY [Feb. 23, 2021] in SUPES: Board Approves ‘Audit Committee’ in Hopes of Solving the Ongoing ‘Dysfunction’ Surrounding Financial Transactions
Manners played a significant role in Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting. While things have sometimes gotten testy between the board and Auditor-Controller Karen Paz Dominguez, most everyone seemed to be on their best behavior Tuesday as the board agreed to the structure of a county audit committee, which will serve an advisory role on financial matters.
Earlier in the meeting, an applicant for a controversial 10,000-square-foot cannabis grow just outside Blue Lake accused her neighbors of bad manners, saying their mean-spirited and dishonest testimony slandered her family and convinced the county Planning Commission to deny the project.
Let’s start there, shall we? Rocci and Laura Costa had applied for a zoning clearance certificate under the county’s Commercial Medical Marijuana Land Use Ordinance, (aka Ordinance 1.0). They planned an open-air cannabis farm on Warren Creek Road, outside Blue Lake city limits but within its Community Planning Area. However, because of that proximity to the city, the Costas were made to comply with the county’s Commercial Cannabis Land Use Ordinance (aka Ordinance 2.0), and that complicated the process.
After spending years planning the project, they now needed a conditional use permit, and the public hearings — before both the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors — were acrimonious, with support from fellow small-scale growers but vociferous opposition from neighboring residents on Warren Creek Road.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Planning and Building Director John Ford explained that a rather unusual solution had been reached at a neighborhood meeting that he’d facilitated in an effort to mediate the conflict. The Costas had agreed to move their planned grow to an unspecified site in Honeydew, he said.
However, when Costa spoke via Zoom, she was upset. She said the negotiated agreement was contingent upon a written apology clearing her family name, and since the neighbors had failed to provide that written apology she considered the deal null and void.
“The community failed to take responsibility for the negative depiction of myself and our project,” she said. “The community slandered us.”
There was some confusion among the board members about how to proceed. Second District Supervisor Michelle Bushnell made a motion to continue the meeting to a later date since the proposal on the table wasn’t what Costa actually wanted. Third District Supervisor Mike Wilson, on the other hand, said he was reluctant to extend what has been “a fairly painful process” and made a motion to approve the agreement despite Costa’s hesitation. Neither of those motions received a second.
Ultimately, a compromise was reached. County staff agreed to make a genuine effort to find an alternate location for the project. one that’s a lot closer to Blue Lake than Honeydew is. Staff also agreed to assign a senior planner to the project, replacing the planner who’s been working on it. In exchange, Costa agreed to accept the relocation agreement, saying the proposal to help her find a closer spot was “a great olive branch” from the county.
The board, with apparent relief, approved this accord unanimously.
After a lunch break, the board embarked on the somewhat touchy matter of forming a county audit committee — “touchy” because it concerns the ongoing power struggle between the board and the County Administrative Office, on the one hand, and Auditor-Controller Karen Paz Dominguez on the other.
A report prepared by CAO staff takes pains to articulate the board’s authority to require county officials — “including elected officials” — to participate in county functions.
However, in an email sent to four of the five county supervisors (with First District Supervisor Rex Bohn omitted), Paz Dominguez argued that the proposed committee, as outlined in the staff report, could potentially overreach her own office’s authority. She also took issue with the proposed composition of the committee.
Speaking to the board via Zoom, Paz Dominguez clarified that while she has concerns, she is “fully supportive” of the committee. Foremost among her concerns was that all parties understand that the committee serves an advisory function and “won’t impact the statutory authority of the independently elected Auditor-Controller.”
The board set about workshopping some of the language, with Wilson taking the lead. He suggested that the two supervisors assigned as voting members to the committee should be the chair and vice-chair, positions that rotate annually. The committee will also include County Administrative Officer Amy Nilsen, Treasure-Tax Collector John Bartholomew and appointed community members, all in non-voting roles.