Yolo County Planning Commission moves forward with plans to require discretionary use permit for cannabis activities
On Nov. 12, an online public hearing was conducted on the Cannabis Land Use Ordinance (CLUO) as part of the ongoing project by the Yolo County Planning Commission to amend Yolo County Code.
The amendment could potentially add a discretionary conditional use permit requirement for cannabis-related activities, according to a press release. In turn, this could bring about changes in zoning, site design, operational standards and development of cannabis in Yolo County.
“The Cannabis Land Use Ordinance (CLUO) will potentially reduce or expand allowed cannabis activities in the unincorporated County and will include requirements for public noticing, buffers from identified sensitive land uses, caps on the number of operations and license types, and other performance standards,” the press release reads.
Yolo County Cannabis Policy and Enforcement Manager Susan Strachan explained that a land use ordinance is a permit that outlines what can and cannot be done on the parcel of land for which the application is made.
“In the case of our Cannabis Land Ordinance, this includes performance standards for what can be done on the property as part of that permit,” Strachan said. “With cannabis, that’s things like odor, lighting and biology culture resources. There are 40-55 performance standards that fall under that use permit.”
Strachan explained that in addition to the standards that are outlined by the CLUO, use permits are discretionary—unlike the ministerial licenses currently required for cultivation, which do not require approval from a body.
“The planning commission has to use its discretion in terms of whether to approve or deny a use permit,” Strachan said. “For all use permits—not just cannabis—the public gets notified that there is that application, and they have that opportunity to get involved and learn more about that project rather than something being sited next door without their knowledge.”
While the ultimate decision-maker in this process is the Yolo County Board of Supervisors, Strachan explained that public involvement is a crucial advantage of the CLUO.
“The fact that it will provide the public the opportunity to get involved and participate in that use permit process—that’s really important and a good part of the Cannabis Land Use Ordinance,” Strachan said. “We did a lot of public outreach before we started putting pen to paper and then through the course of its development.”
Since the push to move to a discretionary permitting process by the Board of Supervisors at the start of fall 2017, there have been approximately 40 public meetings to gauge public opinion as well as efforts to take feedback from existing cultivators into consideration, according to Strachan.
“The keyword is ‘balance,’” Strachan said. “It is judgment-based on what is appropriate, given all of the different interests.”
Representing one of these interests is the Director of the Davis Cannabis Collective Ashley Kammerer. She explained that the CLUO could have a significant effect on vendors, particularly in terms of cultivation.
“As a retailer, having a healthy supply chain that is local is highly desirable,” Kammerer said via email. “It means we have the ability to provide fresh products that are of higher quality for a lower cost. This is an opportunity for Yolo County to maximize the potential of this industry and how it benefits its community members.”
The CLUO could also have an effect on business which—while possibly detrimental to vending—is important for safe and legal use, explained Kammerer.
“If retail is allowed in Yolo County that will surely impact our business,” Kammerer said via email. “We would have fewer sales per day. As the director, I am of course disheartened by that. As a medical cannabis activist, I am thrilled. It is imperative that community members have access to regulated, lab-tested cannabis products.”
The cannabis industry is highly regulated, which Kammerer explained makes maintaining compliance with state and local government regulations particularly important for vendors.
Kammerer described that public involvement is vital as residents have the potential to shape the outcome of local government decisions by communicating with local officials and attending public meetings.
“Yolo County has a real opportunity for growth by developing the cannabis industry here,” Kammerer said via email. “If developed correctly, there could be many positive impacts on the community.”
There will be a public workshop for supervisors on Jan. 19 and a hearing on Feb. 2. Moreover, on March 9, the Board of Supervisors will determine the exact nature of the CLUO’s effect on Yolo County cannabis activities.