From the field: Life on “Marijuana Creek Lane”
Dear Sonoma County Supervisors,
Since early 2017, my neighbors and I have the had the unfortunate luck of living on Matanzas Creek Lane, or, as your staff jokingly refers to it as, ‘Marijuana Creek Lane’. We are continually reminded of Sonoma County’s poorly written, implemented, and enforced cannabis ordinance and its continued willingness to put a quick cannabis dollar over its residents.
Sonoma County clearly holds cannabis operators to a different standard than anyone else in the County. As law-abiding and tax-paying residents, we feel like second class citizens. You have no regard or concern for our quiet enjoyment. In the process to date, you have detrimentally impacted our property value by continuing to increase cannabis acreage in the county and specifically in Bennett Valley.
The County’s current maneuver to allow ministerial approval for cannabis operations and its quest to increase acreage in certain areas will further put us in harm’s way, negate our right to quiet enjoyment, deplete the water table in an already water deficient area and destroy our property value.
Specifically, I take issue with the items listed below:
Daily we deal with an inordinate amount on traffic on our privately maintained, single-lane road. The employees of the two current cannabis operations on our road drive too fast, disregard the rules of the road and are surly and dismissive when asked to slow down or use the turn outs (especially when they are required to back up per the rules of the road). During harvest, we have documented up to 15 box trucks hauling cannabis to the operator at the top of our road daily in the months of September, October and November. It increased to 20 to 25 during the Glass Fire. This is in addition to the 10 to 15 additional employee vehicles coming to grown, harvest, dry and trim the cannabis as well as vendor and supply trucks for the two cannabis operations. I know you don’t even what to know about all the other vehicles that come and go to buy small quantities for personal consumption.
Also, Bennett Valley Road at Matanzas Creek Lane, is a dangerous, blind curve. During peak commute hours, when most of the cannabis employees are entering and exiting Bennett Valley Road, a large portion of Sonoma County residents are also using Bennett Valley Road as an alternate route to Highway 12.
Clearly a traffic study hasn’t been done or you are blatantly disregarding it. If you have or did read it, you would know that the volume of traffic is significant. You would also know how many accidents occur yearly between Sonoma Mountain Road and Enterprise Road if you look at Sonoma County Sheriff and CHP accident logs.
Disregard for Codified Rules & Regulation
Since 2017, we have witnessed the removal of healthy and mature oak and redwood trees for growing tents, unpermitted grading of slopes over 15% and disturbing of Level III streams, installation of shoddy, unpermitted electrical and plumbing, significant light pollution from grow tents and noise pollution from generators powering fans and grow lights, off-putting odors and smells, and the unsightly view of hoop houses, blue, brown and black tarped fences , and piles of trash in our view shed. If a resident or another businesses did this they would be red-tagged and fined. It definitely diminishes curb appeal for potential buyers.
Also, when we rebuilt our house that we lost in the 2017 Nuns Canyon fire, we were required to meet or exceed WUI building code, ensure our home was aesthetically pleasing for the neighbors who could see it, pay for numerous permits, submit plans to ensuring we had proper lighting and sound attenuating equipment to prevent noise and light pollution, and install fire sprinklers to meet life-safety requirements.
Why aren’t cannabis operators aren’t being held to any of these standards. This is required of vineyard and winery operators when they go through the arduous use permit process. There should be an equal application of the rules and regulation regardless of the business operating in Sonoma County.
Bennett Valley and property owners on Matanzas Creek Lane are in an area deem to be water deficient by Sonoma County and the State of California standards. We are dependent on private wells. With cannabis operations running year-round, more water is being used than when the properties were owned and resided by single families of 2 to 5 people. Also, the proliferation of water tanks in clear sight of all is becoming a significant problem. Poor man’s compliance, Google Earth Pro, documents this for the grow in Bennett Valley.
Adding 600 more acres in Bennett Valley will only worsen the water situation especially considering the drought we are currently experiencing. Didn’t Governor Newsom just spotlight the extreme drought conditions during a visit to Sonoma County in late April/early May?
Cannabis operations currently on Matanzas Creek Lane utilize septic systems that were designed, engineered, and built for single family residences over the past 20 and 50 years ago. There is no way that they have been updated or can support all the flushes of 8 to 10 employees year-round and the waste generated from the current grows. Assuming that the level of waste making it in to the Level III creek on Matanzas Creek Lane has increased significantly since 2017.
If a winery were seeking use permit approval, they would have to undertake a study and prove the current septic system is sufficient and/or undertake the arduous process to design, engineer, permit and install a new system. Why aren’t cannabis operators being held to the same standard?
Bennett Valley only has TWO fire-fighting apparatuses stationed at the Sonoma County Fire District station (formally the home of the Bennett Valley Volunteer Fire Department). This is the only equipment for the Bennett Valley area which is roughly 8,100 acres according to AVA data. Is the station staffed full time? If you are going to increase cannabis acreage in Bennett Valley and we are in extreme drought and fire conditions, wouldn’t it be advisable to increase the number of apparatus, stations and/or staff to service and keep the area safe?
In Bennett Valley, police services are under the purview of the Sonoma County Sheriff. My understanding from a quick search is that the closest station/substation are 10 miles away in either downtown Santa Rosa or Boyes Hot Springs.
We are aware that the cannabis operations at 3803 Matanzas Creek Lane and Wellsprings Road have been the victims of break-in/theft multiple times over the past year. The operator at 3803 Matanzas Creek Lane just installed a high-tech security camera system (required paying thousands of dollars to AT&T to install high-speed fiber on the road). Doesn’t leave a warm and fuzzy feeling the other neighbors on our road. To make matters worse, AT&T refuses to provide the us or our neighbors on Ma Matanzas Creek Lane high-speed connectivity so we can protect ourselves in light of the thefts and break-ins. It seems like the County is putting a bullseye on rural residential owners and we have no recourse. Would it be prudent to increase patrols, add a substation or at least help get proper broadband and cell service so we can call for the Sheriff located 10 miles away?
Sonoma County has a legal and ethical obligation to provide a safe environment and ensure quiet enjoyment for all its residents. There are too many issues and too many residents who are being left out in the County’s misguided quest for a quick cannabis dollar. Approving cannabis operations via the ministerial approval process is reckless and foolish.
The County needs to treat cannabis operators the same as vineyard, wineries, and any other business operators in the County. The County needs to apply all the laws equally regardless of who and where the business will be operated. Cannabis operators should have to undertake traffic, EIR (including water and septic) studies, obtain any and all permits prior to commencing operations, and ensure all buildings and operations meet or exceed the local, state and federal codified rules and regulations to conduct business in Sonoma County.
The County needs to undertake a density and concentration study of where the grows are allowed to happen and provide and/or increase life safety , water and sewer resources and infrastructure to ensure the safety of all. They also need to conduct an open and fair use permit process that allows for neighborhood input and opposition especially when it will deny quiet enjoyment and/or detrimental harm property and resale value.
Until all the above have been properly addressed, the cannabis business in Sonoma County must cease!