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Tuolumne County unveils proposed regulations for personal cannabis grows


Source: Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors meeting agenda for Nov. 14, 2017

A special meeting at 4 p.m. Tuesday could help determine the future of personal cannabis cultivation in Tuolumne County.

The county Board of Supervisors will host the public meeting at the Sonora Opera Hall to provide staff in the county’s Community Resources Agency with direction on how cannabis cultivation for personal use should be regulated, including limits on the number of plants and where people can grow them.

At a meeting on Oct. 3, the board faced backlash from more than a dozen people who were opposed to a proposed ban on all outdoor cultivation in the unincorporated area of the county.

Outdoor cultivation for personal, medicinal-use only has been allowed since February 2016 when the board passed an ordinance that limited the total number of plants that can be grown to 12 for individuals and 24 for multiple people living at the same residence.

The board proposed banning outdoor cultivation of cannabis for both medicinal and recreational personal use after receiving a string of complaints from constituents about issues with neighbors growing marijuana outdoors.

However, the board backed off from the proposed ban at the Oct. 3 meeting and directed county staff to develop recommendations that will be considered Tuesday.

All of the recommendations that will be considered would significantly reduce the maximum plant limit for personal-use cultivation in nearly all zoning districts, but some would be allowed more than others depending on lot sizes.

People would also be required to pay an annual fee for growing more than six plants ranging from $150 to $500 that would pay for enforcement of the ordinance. A “minimal fee” to cover administrative costs would be charged to those growing six plants or less.

Outdoor grows would be reduced to a maximum of three plants in single-family, medium-density and multi-family residential zoning districts (R-1, R-2, and R-3).

People in those zoning districts would be able to grow up to six plants total, whether indoors, outdoors, or a mix between both. There would also be a required 50-foot setback from the nearest property line, as well as a maximum outdoor garden area of 50 square feet in those districts.

Residential estate zoning districts with minimum lot sizes of one, two, or three acres (RE-1, RE-2, and RE-3) would be able to grow a maximum of 12 plants within a total outdoor garden area of 100 square feet.

However, those districts would only be able grow up to three plants outside with a 50-foot setback from the nearest property line and up to six with a 75-foot setback.

Residential estate zoning district with minimum lots sizes of 5 to 10 acres (RE-5 and RE-10) as well as general agricultural district within minimum parcel size of 10 acres (A-10), would be allowed to grow up 12 plants outdoors in a total garden area of 1,000 square feet set back 100 feet from the nearest property line.

Those districts would also be able grow up to six plants indoors, but they wouldn’t be able to grow more than 12 plants total on their parcel through a mix of indoor and outdoor cultivation.

Agricultural zoning districts with minimum lot sizes of 20 and 37 acres (A-20 and AE-37) would be allowed to grow up 12 plants total, whether indoor, outdoor or a mix. The maximum outdoor garden area would be 1,000 square feet at least 100 feet from the nearest property line.

General, heavy, and special commercial zoning districts (C-1, C-2, and C-S), business park districts (BP), light and heavy industrial districts (M-1 and M-2), general recreational districts (K), and timberland production districts (TPZ) would be allowed up to six plants only inside of a residence.

Outdoor cultivation would be banned in those districts, and none of the cannabis grown could be sold as commercial.

If the board chooses to allow outdoor cultivation, county staff recommends requiring opaque fencing with a lockable gate that conceals the garden, limiting the height of plants to 6 feet, prohibiting any visible evidence of cultivation from a public right-of-way, prohibiting cultivation within a front yard and requiring a full-time resident on the premises.

County staff also recommends maintaining a 1,000-foot setback from all “sensitive use areas,” such as libraries, playgrounds, youth centers, drug or alcohol recovery facilities and licensed sober-living facilities.

All cultivation of cannabis for commercial purposes would remain banned, but the county’s Marijuana Working Group is currently holding monthly meetings to develop recommendations for possible regulations that would allow that.

Contact Alex MacLean at amaclean@uniondemocrat.com or (209) 588-4530.

A special meeting on the development of cannabis regulations in Tuolumne County will be held at 4 p.m. Tuesday at the Sonora Opera Hall, 250 S. Washington St. in downtown Sonora.