Company states cannabis facility is still ‘off the table’
A Humboldt County Planning Commission meeting set for Thursday evening will address sweeping zoning changes across the county and is concerning some residents about potential changes, which could mean the revival of a cannabis manufacturing facility project at a Mercer-Fraser Co. site.
The 55-page document accompanying the agenda for the planning commission includes requests for zoning changes by the owners of 30 parcels across the county. Among those parcels are several owned by Mercer-Fraser, including a gravel quarry in the Glendale area, which was the site of a previously proposed cannabis facility.
For Mercer-Fraser’s part, the company’s CEO Justin Zabel said the zoning changes have nothing to do with the cannabis facility, which is a no-go at this point.
“That’s off the table,” Zabel said of plans for a cannabis manufacturing facility.
Nevertheless, groups including Humboldt Baykeeper and Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District are concerned about what rezoning for heavy industrial sites could mean for the Mad River.
A special meeting was called by the water district board on Wednesday afternoon, and the board voted to request the staff draft a letter outlining concerns.
“The board directed staff to prepare a letter to the county planning commission detailing how designating the properties in the Mad River watershed is inconsistent with other county policies and poses a threat to the Mad River water quality,” District General Manager John Friedenbach said.
He said he planned to deliver the letter to the planning commission on Thursday evening.
About 88,000 residents depend on the watershed for water, approximately two-thirds of Humboldt County residents, Friedenbach said.
The property would be rezoned to heavy industrial with a special designation that Humboldt Baykeeper Executive Director Jennifer Kalt said would allow for cannabis manufacturing.
“A heavy industry is the zone that they are changing it to. They claim they are putting a ‘Q’ on to restrict it to cannabis,” she said.
But her primary concern she said is that after the rezone, there could be no further environmental reviews of the parcel.
“The way this county operates,” she said, “when something is developed with industrial uses, they say ‘well, it’s already industrial. We can add this that and the other.'”
She also noted that the way the zoning request is introduced makes it somewhat inaccessible to most local residents.
“A really big question is why isn’t there more information that is easily accessible to the public,” she said. “You can scroll through all these pages and I have been following land use planning issue for years and it was somewhat incomprehensible to me what was being changed.”