Thursday, December 7, 2023

Cannabis Crackdown, Caltrans Closure Affecting Local Business, School for Sale—Highlights from the Redwood Valley MAC Meeting

[Stock image by Monica Huettl]

The Redwood Valley Municipal Advisory Council met on October 11, 2023 at the Grange Hall to discuss code enforcement and the cannabis ordinance, street beautification projects, CalTrans’ road closure of the Road 144 exit in Redwood Valley, water issues, Candidates’ Forum, and bee removal.

Six weeks after Mendocino County Code Enforcement teams targeted Redwood Valley searching for unlicensed cannabis grows, people in Redwood Valley still have questions. Although the State allows six cannabis plants with setbacks, and the County has allowed the same criteria for medically permitted growers, more restrictive Mendocino County rules state recreational growers must have at least 10 acres to grow six plants. Many small backyard growers did not realize they were illegal when Code Enforcement officers arrived and told them to cut down their plants, even though the sweep was originally aimed at getting rid of large unlicensed grows. 

Supervisor Glenn McGourty said that requests to amend the cannabis ordinance should be directed to Supervisors Mo Mulheren and John Haschak, who are on the General Government Committee.

Board Chair Dolly Riley was hoping to have a guest speaker from the County Code Enforcement office but nobody from that office attended the meeting. The MAC meetings take place after regular business hours, and the County may want to be reimbursed for its employees’ time.

Vice Chair Jini Reynolds suggested that the MAC create an ad hoc committee for Code Enforcement matters, comprised of two MAC members and two citizens. The committee members could meet with Code Enforcement representatives during business hours, and report back to the MAC.

Long-time Redwood Valley resident Mike Wasco said he did some weed eating on the West Road/School Way intersection, and he would like to beautify that area. He has a group of volunteers, but he needs assistance with county permitting for such a project. Wasco said there are examples of landscaping and signage in Alexander Valley that would be nice to see in Redwood Valley. Perhaps the wineries that participate in Taste of Redwood Valley would chip in towards this, he suggested.

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Chair Riley said that she would bring it up to the Board of Supervisors.

Board Member Patricia Ris-Yarbrough suggested that perhaps Mendocino College could have their landscaping students design the spaces. There are also three teens working towards their Eagle Scout Badge who might be interested in this community service project.

Rhonda McAnally, owner of Pizza, Etc. on East Road, spoke about the problems her business is experiencing from the closure of the Road 144 exit on Highway 20. McAnally said she talked to other local business owners who are also suffering. She’s had the business for 31 years and has never experienced as severe a decline as she is suffering from the road closure. CalTrans initially announced that the road would be closed for a few days now and then while work is being done on the interchange and the new Russian River Bridge, but now says that the road will be closed for a year. Work is not expected to commence until next year, and people want to know why the road is closed when CalTrans is not actually working on it. Many of McAnally’s customers live in Potter Valley and Lake County, and with the exit closed, they can no longer quickly pick up a pizza on their way home from work in Ukiah.

Chair Riley said she had already planned to write a letter from the MAC to Caltrans about the road closure.

The Board voted to approve the letter and Riley will send it to CalTrans. She will also invite a rep from CalTrans to speak at a future MAC meeting.

Supervisor McGourty gave an update on County matters. County Counsel Christian Curtis has announced that he will not renew his contract which expires in May 2024. The County has 9 attorneys on staff, plus they use outside counsel as well. The County Counsel position pays approximately $300,000 a year. McGourty said an interim counsel may be appointed, or perhaps the position will remain unfilled, as the County is moving toward a leaner government due to the budget shortfall.

Ris-Yarborough asked why Curtis was leaving and McGourty said he didn’t know.

Regarding water, McGourty said that the Mendocino County Inland Water and Power Commission is making progress in purchasing the diversion tunnel from PG&E. They’ve taken the first two baby steps in this process. However, some in the environmental community of Humboldt County are not happy with any diversion of Eel River water into the Russian River.

Board Member Adam Gaska provided more water news. The Redwood Valley County Water District is drilling four test wells to see if there is any water at the Masonite site, owned by the Millview Water District. If water is found, they will drill a well to supply water to Redwood Valley. Millview has an agreement with Redwood Valley to provide water from this new well.

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Community member Gizmo Henderson asked if there is any concern that the new well will be contaminated with the underground toxic plume from the former Masonite holding ponds.

Gaska said the plume is being monitored regularly by the state of California. The new well water will be tested, and the water from the existing wells on the property (which have already been supplying water to Redwood Valley) is tested.

Reynolds thanked Adam for writing the white paper concisely summarizing the local water supply status and history.

There was no report from Sheriff Kendall, as the microphone used for Zoom was not working.

Ris-Yarborough had wanted to ask him questions about the shelter-in-place Nixle alert sent on October 10 regarding a man walking and waving a gun near the West Road intersection with Laughlin. The alert was sent around 5:30 PM, and then another alert was sent some hours later canceling the shelter-in-place, without providing any explanation. Multiple deputies and a drone searched private properties without finding the suspect. The lack of follow-up information was concerning for some community members.

Reynolds announced that the Redwood Valley Calpella Fire Department will participate in the Trunk or Treat Halloween event at the Grange. The Trunk or Treat is October 28 from 5:00 to 8:00 PM. The 4H Club will have a haunted house at the Grange on Friday, October 27 from 7 to 10 PM and on Saturday, October 28 from 5 to 9 PM. The cost is $5 per family, but no one will be turned away if they can’t afford to pay. 

The Grange building is due for repainting, but first, a colony of honeybees that was in the wall had to be removed. The hive was in the way of electrical work that needed to be done prior to painting.

Alternate Member Marybeth Kelly called the honey, which had a smokey flavor, “Le Grange Gourmet Smoked Honey.”

Regarding development, Gaska reported there are no new or pending permits to review. Kelly reported on the Redwood Valley School property. At the October 9 Ukiah Unified School District Board meeting, the Board chose to put the school property up for sale.

The bids are due by 4:30 PM January 18, 2024 in a live auction process. Minimum bid price is $900,000. Once a bid is accepted, the due diligence period will be 60 days, and escrow will be 90 days.

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Steve Bareckman, Chief Business Official at the school district, is giving a tour of the property to potential bidders on Wednesday, October 25 at 10:00 AM. Here is the press release from the school district. 

The ad hoc committee on the Great Redwood Trail did not have any updates. 

On September 26, 2023, the Board of Supervisors postponed a vote to adopt the Redwood Valley Community Action Plan and Design Guidelines. Planning and Building Services Director Julia Krog will work with the MAC in early 2024 to find less restrictive language to commercial, industrial, and multi-family development and bring it back to the BOS.

Board Member Kahli Johnson said that the City of Ukiah is getting Blue Zones grants for civic projects, and once a CAP is in place, perhaps Redwood Valley could qualify for similar grants. 

Kelly remarked that Lions Park is always inundated with trash after large group rentals. Part of the problem is caused by not enough trash cans. The County charges a rental fee for large groups, but does not charge a cleanup fee. Supervisor McGourty said there have been discussions about charging a cleanup fee. 

Kelly reported that she stopped by the Ukiah CHP office to ask Seargent Randy England to speak about traffic control at a MAC meeting.

After the MAC meeting, Kelly subsequently spoke to CHP Seargent Garcia, who suggested putting two radar trailers on East and West roads to monitor speeding. These do not have cameras, but they record the speed of every vehicle. If they get high-speed readings in an area, they will step up traffic enforcement.

Riley wanted to know if the start time of the MAC meetings should be moved back to 5:00 PM instead of 5:30 PM. After a brief discussion, it was decided to keep with the 5:30 PM start time to accommodate working people who want to attend. 

Chair Reilly announced that there is still one opening on the Board. Applicants are encouraged to attend a MAC meeting, introduce themselves, and apply online. There is also an opening for a secretary.

The next meeting will be November 8, 2022. There will be no meeting in December.

Post-meeting note: Thursday, October 12 at 6:30 PM the Grange hosted a Candidates Forum for First District Supervisor Candidates, sponsored by the Mendocino Women’s Political Coalition, moderated by Christine Rodrigues. Five candidates are running: Madeline Cline, Adam Gaska, David Goodman, Trevor Mockel, and Carrie Shattuck. Goodman will not attend, as he is a Marine Reservist and is in reserve training. The video recording of this event will be posted on the Inland Mendocino Democratic Club website.

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  1. Locals know another way to get that pizza. West Rd. For those that are going to Lake County and can’t turn. Go to road A and flip around back down the hill and take 144. When you come off 144 back onto 20, go down to the Willits/Ukiah sign and flip around again and head home.

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Monica Huettl
Monica Huettl
Mendocino County Resident, Annoying Horse Girl.

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