By Bruce McPherson, County Supervisor 5th District
Improved Mount Hermon Intersection
This is a project that has been near the top of my wish list for years. As you know, all westbound traffic on Mount Hermon Road going towards Felton funnels into one through lane at Lockhart Gulch. That’s going to be improved significantly soon. For westbound traffic, the new striping will provide a right turn lane onto Lockhart Gulch, a new bike lane, and two through lanes.
The striping work by the City of Scotts Valley is scheduled for the first week in November. I sincerely appreciate Scotts Valley Public Works Director Scott Hamby’s leadership and initiative in getting this project done.
Safe Routes to School Project Completed
This is another long-awaited project that I worked on for years, and was on previous Supervisors’ lists as well. The project includes road widening, curb, gutter and sidewalk, a retaining wall, and drainage improvements. More than anything, it is a safer way to get to school. I appreciate the efforts of our County Public Works Department and Caltrans in getting Safe Routes to School grants for the project.
Supervisors Weigh Cultivation Ordinance
We have hired Daniel Peterson, the County’s first Cannabis Licensing Manager. Peterson, who was chosen from 180 applicants, will oversee the newly created Cannabis Licensing Division, including staff management, community outreach, and coordination with state regulators.
We previously established a tax on medical cannabis dispensaries, and a Measure E on the ballot this month, if approved, will allow that tax to be applied to other cannabis- related businesses. Our cannabis dispensaries, overall, are working very well.
Until November 6, we are registering growers who are interested in getting a license to cultivate.
And, last week, the Board of Supervisors reviewed a cultivation ordinance that protects the interests of neighbors and patients while providing for a safe, environmentally friendly, and transparent industry.
The proposed new ordinance must now undergo a full Environmental Impact Report before becoming law. It will apply to cultivation of medical cannabis, and if voters approve a state ballot measure, to cannabis grown in Santa Cruz County for adult recreational use.
Let me share some of the details of our cultivation ordinance. The ordinance establishes seven classes of licenses based on existing zoning regulations and requires growers to obtain both local and State cultivation licenses. It also provides for safety, property setbacks, buffers from schools, parks and libraries, and water and other environmental protections.
Under the ordinance, qualified medical cannabis patients would be allowed to continue growing cannabis for personal use. Commercial operations would be prohibited in the Coastal Zone plus a one-mile buffer. Where allowed, the ordinance limits outdoor cultivation to minimum lot sizes ranging from one acre to 10 acres, depending on the license type. In any case, no cannabis canopy may exceed 22,000 square feet, or less than half the size of a football field.
Cannabis sites must also be set back from public rights of way and neighboring habitable structures and be no less than 600 feet from any municipal boundary, school, library, alcohol or drug treatment facility, or park.
Water must also be derived from approved on-site sources, and the use of generators in all but emergency situations is prohibited. On-site sales and the on-site production of cannabis products such as tinctures, candies, etc. are also prohibited.
In addition, the ordinance requires cultivators to register their sites to be eligible to apply for a full license. As part of the licensing process, growers must provide their name and location, information on prior cannabis-related law enforcement activity at the site, background information as required by the Licensing Official, security plans, and more.
As the cannabis industry moves into the regulated marketplace, we are growing and adapting as well.
The EIR will give us an accurate picture of how this ordinance will impact our county, from neighborhoods to timber production. This ordinance is carefully designed to address concerns from all members of the community, and while there is more to be done, I believe we have drafted something that we can all feel good about.
County Credit Ratings Upgraded
With a strong local economy and sound fiscal policies, Santa Cruz County recently received credit upgrades from two major credit rating agencies. Standard & Poor Global Ratings upgraded the County to “AA” from its previous rating, “AA-.” And Moody’s has upgraded the County’s lease-backed obligations to “A1” from “A2,” the highest rating within a category of “low-risk” borrowers.
The Board of Supervisors recently adopted a policy goal of maintaining 10 percent of revenues as reserves and recently approved a contract agreement with its largest employee union, SEIU Local 521. County reserves are currently at 9 percent.