Letter to The Independent and Redwood Times 02-07-17

Dear Editor,

        Habitat Forever wants to thank the community for its interest and support of our work.  We also want to encourage the public to get involved in our newest campaign.  We recently discovered that an out of the area real estate speculator filed for a marijuana cultivation permit on a parcel he does not own, and that has no history of cultivation.  The County’s own GIS map shows no cultivation site on this heavily forested parcel.  We talked to Steven Santos, Development Assistance Manager of the Planning Division, and he says that the applicant will be given the opportunity to test for prime agricultural soil, the only location that brand new cultivation sites can be located.  It is highly unlikely that this forest soil will meet that criterion, and the County’s soil maps do not show agricultural soil in that area.  Since the applicant filed for a 10,000 square foot grow, and the growing season is nearing, what mechanisms exist to restrain him from clear-cutting a grow site while he waits for the County to approve or deny his permit application?  What checks and oversight exist to make sure the soil testing process isn’t gamed?   
Steven Santos told us that many of the applications are “optimistic” and unlikely to get permits.  Given the risk of cut and run growers, we need the public to get involved.  Please investigate the parcels near your home, and any you are concerned about.  Once you find the parcel numbers, from the Assessor’s Office, call the Planning Division, 707-445-7541, and ask if anyone filed a cultivation application on that parcel.  If the answer is yes, ask for the name of the applicant.  To find out more, ask Catherine Munsee, Business Manager of the Planning Division, for a Public Record Request.  Neighbors and the public have a due process right to inspect the project record, and provide comment to the Planning Division.  You can also ask for the decision to be made at a public hearing, held in front of the Planning Commission.  Since most of the applications were made in the final weeks before the application deadline, with no time for investigation into the veracity of the information, we need the public to shine a spotlight on this process.  If you need help, please contact us at habitat@planetmail.com.  To find out more, go to www.habitatforever@planetmail.com.  Thank-you, Amy Gustin