Cannabis biz along West County Trail stirs protest
A proposed cannabis project along West County Regional Trail has residents fired up and county supervisors looking for answers to why bike lane trails are classified differently than regional parks.
Fifth District Supervisor Lynda Hopkins said she believes regional trails are part of the regional parks network.
“In my opinion it should be considered a linear park,” Hopkins said.
But as of now the county does not share that opinion. Although the regional parks department maintains regional trails, county staff told supervisors during the Oct. 16 meeting that the county’s general plan classifies trails as transportation corridors.
A land use permit for cannabis cultivation requires at least a 1,000-foot setback from a park’s property line to the cannabis operation site. Although the West County Regional Trail is listed as recreational and protected within the county’s Open Space and Conservation Element, the 13-acre cannabis site proposed for Graton would not fall under the setback requirement.
Tim Ricard, Sonoma County Cannabis Program Manager, said staff is looking at the issue. “We received direction from the board to explore options,” he said. Ricard and other county staff will present those options in the next cannabis ad hoc meeting.
Graton residents protest cannabis project
Graton residents, who found out about the cannabis application only days before the supervisor’s meeting, worked quickly to assemble a group to show up and voice their concerns. The public comments stirred supervisors to add the issue to the list of potential amendments to the updated cannabis ordinance.
Bridget Beytagh, a Graton resident who lives on Railroad Street, which runs parallel to the West County Trail, said most people in Graton voted in favor of legalizing cannabis.
“We support small growers, we know them,” she said. “Our main issue is this is totally the wrong place.”
She said sharing the narrow, one-lane road with a commercial cannabis operation is inappropriate and also noted that the site is a sanctuary to wildlife and migratory birds.
The farmers of the proposed cannabis operation, Jackalope Gardens, planned to meet with the public at the front gates of the proposed site, which now is the home of a pumpkin patch, on Saturday, Oct. 20. Graton residents planned a counter-protest on the same day at the same location.
When residents showed up for the meeting on Saturday morning, they did not find any Jackalope farmers, but there was a letter posted on a tree near the cultivation site. The letter read, “We earnestly look forward to engaging with you about the permaculture plan for this site, and we had been excited to meet more of you today. However, in recent days, there have been some concerning comments and miscommunications about what this project is and what its presence here will mean. As a result, tensions are running high, and out of respect for the community and civil discourse, we are rescheduling the morning’s conversation.”
Hadas Alterman, community liaison for Jackalope Gardens, said they decided to postpone the meeting because they received threats.
“We are uninterested in being combative,” she said. “We are out here to make plans, not enemies.”
Hadas said she has met with several Graton residents who have been friendly and eager to ask questions and communicate in a positive way. She said misinformation has been spread about the project and she can understand why some people are upset.
“We are not a huge industrial project,” she said. “We are a medium-sized permaculture garden.”
The date of the rescheduled meeting is not yet known, but Alterman said she is happy to meet with residents and address any questions or concerns. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Supervisor Hopkins stressed that it is early in the approval process and that at this point there has been zero determination on the Graton application. Those concerned with the proposed site are urged to contact the project’s planner, Steve Rosen at email@example.com.