“Undoubtedly, cannabis is a divisive issue in our community.”
After more than a year of critical focus on the COVID-19 pandemic, I am happy to see county staff hard at work on other mission-critical areas of focus. We opened the window for vegetation management grant applications, and our Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District staff have been hard at work sifting through proposals. Additionally, the Board considered and allocated funding toward a slate of county climate initiatives.
Here, I would like to highlight two items that came before the Board on May 18 –- the Cannabis Ordinance modifications, and the Tree Preservation Ordinance Workshop.
I received hundreds of emails on both topics from my constituents in the First District and from individuals all across the county. Clearly, these are issues our community are deeply passionate about, and I appreciate the time people took to share their thoughts.
The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to delay making amendments to the county Cannabis Ordinance. This followed, in 2021 alone, four community town halls, a trip before the Planning Commission, and, as previously mentioned, an incredible volume of input from the community. In fact, I’ve been working on regulations for Cannabis cultivation my entire two terms on the Board of Supervisors.
In the board meeting, we received an informational report from staff, and directed Permit Sonoma to conduct additional community outreach, and conduct a full Environmental Impact Report (EIR) as next steps. The EIR will take 12 to 18 months to complete. In the meantime, current applicants with cannabis cultivation projects in the pipeline will be reviewed under the existing ordinance.
Undoubtedly, cannabis is a divisive issue in our community. I hope that as we move forward we can find common ground and develop a better system that works for everyone.
Later in the afternoon, Permit Sonoma staff presented the Tree Preservation Ordinance Informational Workshop. I’m so glad to see us finally moving in the right direction. Clearly, the last several years have demonstrated – with fires, floods, and the ongoing, growing threat of climate change – that we must adapt to changing circumstances.
When we talk about the Tree Ordinance, we’re actually talking about several mechanisms within county departments, mainly Permit Sonoma and the Agricultural Commissioner’s office, that regulate the management of trees.
Trees, and the ways we develop policies around them, illuminate the greater fabric of our county’s environmental values and sense of place. Tree policies shape our air and water quality, our wildlife habitats, our ability to sequester carbon and thus combat climate change, but also define our local character, beauty, and quality of life.
I anticipate an ongoing conversation, and one that I will be paying close attention to, is the intersection of tree preservation and vegetation management as a means of wildfire prevention. Staff will be returning to the board in October, 2021 with an update.
In the midst of sometimes long, charged Board discussions and when, at times, the community is at odds, I believe that what we can all agree on is that we need to be thoughtful, to refrain from jumping to conclusions before we have all the facts in front of us, and to make sure we hear the voices of all members of our community, not just those who agree with us. I think that our efforts to this point have reflected these values.