CA: Lake County Board of Supervisors grants appeal of cannabis project over faulty environmental document

Lake County News reports…

LAKE COUNTY, Calif. — Problems with the environmental document for a major cannabis operation to be located next to Hidden Valley Lake led the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday to grant an appeal of the planning commission’s decision to give the project a major use permit.

However, in granting the appeal of the We Grow LLC project permit filed by concerned neighbors, the board said it was doing so without prejudice.

That will allow owner Zarina Otchkova the chance to resubmit the proposal, which her consultant indicated she planned to do.

In early 2020, Otchkova purchased 309 acres at 16750 Herrington Road, 17610 Sandy Road and 19678 Stinson Road in Middletown.

She went to the Lake County Planning Commission in April and received a vote of approval for a major use permit for a project that includes nine acres of cultivation, 35 greenhouses, four 50-foot by 100-foot drying buildings, a 200-square-foot shed, four 2,500-gallon water tanks and fencing, as Lake County News has reported.

By the following week, an appeal had been filed by a group of neighbors, some of them on hand for the board meeting on Tuesday morning.

However, while the appellants and their supporters showed up with signs ready to protest, they were caught off guard by what happened next.

When the hearing began, Board Chair Bruno Sabatier gave the floor to Scott De Leon, the county’s Community Development, Water Resources and Public Works director.

“This is a very large project, and it’s certainly the subject of a great deal of public interest,” as evidenced by attendance at Tuesday’s hearing, said De Leon, who attended the meeting from his office via Zoom.

“We’ve been diligent in our evaluation of the appeal and the questions raised about the environmental analysis for this project,” he said.

Based on that review, Community Development was modifying its recommendations to the board because De Leon said staff had discovered “procedural errors” that have rendered the project’s initial environmental study defective.

As a result, De Leon said the project could not move forward as presented.

He explained that changes were made to the project during the review process and the potential impacts to the environment that could result from those changes were not considered.

Due to those factors, he said he and his staff recommended the board grant the appeal and deny the project without prejudice, a statement interrupted by applause from the socially distanced audience in the board chambers.

De Leon said they expected the applicant would reapply, which they have the right to do, and staff will make revisions to the environmental analysis for the modified site plan and in consideration of concerns raised by the public.

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