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Council To Take Next Step Toward Regulating Grow Houses


420 Staff
ARCATA -- The City Council is expected to take the next step Wednesday toward reining in the city's marijuana grow houses under some kind of oversight and regulation.

The council took the first steps at its Oct. 3 meeting, when it decided to form a task force to make recommendations on how to use land use standards to control the locations, sizes and operations of the city's grow houses.

The grow operations, which are generally under the auspice of Proposition 215, have drawn the ire of the local community in recent weeks, after a grow-gone-awry led to a structure fire causing thousands of dollars of damage to an Arcata home and Arcata Fire Chief John McFarland estimated that grows are to blame for more than half the city's house fires.

Councilman Michael Machi said he recognized the need for a task force at the Oct. 3 meeting when the owner of an Arcata medical marijuana dispensary addressed the council and said his dispensary served 5,000 patients.

"That's a lot of people," Machi said. "Whatever regulation we are proposing is going to affect a lot of people, and you can't just go and say, 'this is what we're doing,' and not consider the input of a large part of the community."

Machi said he hopes to see a six to eight member task force comprising spokespeople for local dispensaries, growers, patients and law enforcement and community members.

Community Development Director Tom Conlon said Monday that he doesn't necessarily see the need for a task force, which would have to meet six to eight times, with each meeting requiring between 10 and 13 hours of staff time. Conlon said he feels city staff can answer the council's questions, and feels the task force would be an unnecessary expenditure of staff time.

Machi, however, said the task force is about more than simply finding answers, as the council's action could potentially affect one-third of all Arcatans.

"We need to have community buy-in for whatever we propose and, as far as I'm concerned, the only way for us to do that is to have a task force," Machi said.

In other matters, the council is expected to adopt a resolution to place the Utility Users Tax Measure on the February ballot.

First adopted in 1993, the measure imposes a 3 percent tax on telephone, gas, water, wastewater and cable television services, which then goes to the city's general fund, according to the staff report. The measure was continued by voters in 1996, 2000 and 2004, and raised approximately $715,000 in 2006-2007, or approximately 10 percent of the city's general fund.

The new measure would keep the tax at 3 percent, but would raise the cap from $1,000 to $1,500 for the city's biggest users, which would also be adjusted by the consumer price index starting in 2010. The new measure would also be in place for eight years, rather than four, and would expire in 2016.

The current tax expires automatically Nov. 30, 2008, and if a new one isn't in place by then, the city stands to lose out on its general fund contributions.

Machi said the council is trying to get the measure on the February ballot so if it is turned down by voters, it would have another shot on the November ballot before the current tax expires. But Machi said he thinks voters recognize the tax's importance.

"It's something that people are used to and they know it's a good use of their money, so they have been supportive of it the last couple times," he said, adding that the city will probably launch an advertising campaign to boost public support.

In other matters, a development project more than five years in the making will look to the council for approval of its next step.

The project aims to turn the old Twin Harbors Mill site at the corner of 10th and Q streets into a mixed use space with a 3.1 acre, 10-lot subdivision, the development of eight new lots for single-family use and a light industrial building.

Conlon said the single-family homes were worked into plans after the developer met with neighbors and heard their concerns over having their homes look out onto light industrial buildings.

"I think this is a particularly good example of a developer working with the neighborhood, meeting their needs and giving them a face to the project that will really fit in with the neighborhood," Conlon said.

If You Go:

What: Arcata City Council

When: 6 p.m. Wednesday

Where: City Council Chambers, 736 F St.

Source: Times-Standard (Eureka, CA)
Copyright: 2007 MediaNews Group, Inc.
Contact: letters@times-standard.com
Website: Times-Standard Online - Home
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