Property values, crime rates and the impacts of a possible ban on commercial cannabis cultivation in Calaveras County were among questions asked Wednesday at a town hall meeting in Mountain Ranch.
Cindy Secada, of Mountain Ranch, asked if all marijuana dispensaries will be closed if voters approve a ban in the May 2 special election, and what percentage of crimes reported before the Butte Fire and after the Butte Fire were cannabis-related.
Calaveras County District 2 Supervisor Jack Garamendi said Sheriff Rick DiBasilio became sick earlier in the day and would not be at the town hall. Garamendi said that, in the event Measure B passes, all dispensaries would be closed.
Jeff Crovitz, county public works director, paraphrased what he said DiBasilio told people at a town hall Tuesday night in Mokelumne Hill.
“Since October 2015 through January 2017, there have been 190 crimes in the county that were marijuana-related,” Crovitz said. “That included an example of someone being DUI and they find marijuana in the vehicle. That would be marked down as a marijuana-related crime.”
Garamendi added, “The sheriff has made the point that his problems are with the unregistered growers, not the registered growers.”
Fernando Leyva, of Mountain Ranch, asked about the appeal process for growers who have been denied permits.
County planning director Peter Maurer described a two-step process that includes a first appeal to the Planning Commission and a second appeal to the county Board of Supervisors.
Nearly every seat at the town hall appeared to be full, and about 20 people chose to stand near the back.
One resident said he was selling his property because he doesn’t want to live next to a grow. Another resident asked about who will pay for enforcement of marijuana laws if voters approve a ban. Another asked if anyone has done a financial analysis if Measure B does not pass.
Maurer said he expects to have a draft copy of an environmental impact report the county needs to move forward with a permanent cannabis ordinance and regulations later this week. Maurer said he hopes to have that available for public comment in April.
Leslie Davis, the elected assessor for Calaveras County, emphasized the importance of the give-and-take at town hall meetings.
“They’re the best way for elected officials to communicate with their constituents,” Davis said. Davis said she has to pay close attention to cannabis cultivation issues because her role requires it.
“The sheriff and the DA, the district attorney, they deal with law enforcement,” Davis said. “I deal with property values. As we move forward with these issues, the Butte Fire, tree mortality, cannabis, each of them has the ability to impact property values and the assessor’s role.”
Susan Galvan, president of the Mountain Ranch Community Club, said impacts from the Butte Fire and other issues are facing rural residents in the area.
“We have infrastructure issues,” Galvan said. “We don’t have a central water supply in Mountain Ranch. We need that to bring more businesses here. The roads are still a major problem. Many are still badly damaged. Culverts are destroyed. Private driveways are still inaccessible in a lot of places. And there are fire-killed dead trees everywhere, in danger of falling over.”
Galvan said her group cannot publicly take a side in the upcoming Measure B vote on a ban.
“We’re neutral, because we have members who feel strongly both ways,” Galvan said Wednesday night. “And as a nonprofit we can’t be political advocates.”
Regardless of how the election turns out, Galvan said, people in Mountain Ranch need to continue to work together to rebuild their community.
“The growers are here and they’re the younger generation now,” Galvan said. “We always wondered where the next young generation of families would come from. We never thought they would come this way, but here they are.”
The community club will host a community conversation town hall from 2 to 4:30 p.m. Sunday in Mountain Ranch.
“We’ve lost about one half of our residents since the Butte Fire,” Galvan said. “And we’ve had so many growers coming in. The community has been shattered by so many changes and impacts.”
The Sunday meeting “is about moving forward and talking about what we’re going to be in the future,” Galvan said. “The changes have already happened.”