The Draft Environmental Impact Report is now available for public review and comment. The formal 45-day public review period begins on Monday, May 1, 2017. Written comments may be sent to the Planning Department at 891 Mountain Ranch Road, San Andreas, CA 95249 or email to PlanningWeb@co.calaveras.ca.us.
When the EIR was first initiated, the intent was to adopt regulations in the form of a permanent ordinance, as staff was directed by the Board of Supervisors in February, 2016. The analysis of environmental impacts was therefore based on the draft regulatory ordinance. As such, the February 2016 ordinance remains the "project description" in the EIR, and the ban ordinance was subsequently developed and discussed as an "alternative". All EIRs require development and discussion of various project alternatives that are less impactful than the project description so that these alternatives can become part of the public discussion under CEQA when discussing how to reduce environmental impacts.
Whether the Board chose to ban cannabis or regulate it, the respective environmental impacts of "status quo cannabis cultivation", "reduced cannabis cultivation", and "no cannabis cultivation" would all need to be analyzed and discussed as various alternatives in the EIR for the permanent ordinance. All were analyzed as "alternatives" in the EIR for the 2016 draft ordinance. Because the originally proposed regulatory ordinance and the currently proposed ban ordinance are both ways of imposing a regulatory scheme on cannabis cultivation & commerce (albeit at opposite ends of the range of choices) it was unnecessary to start over with a new project description and a new EIR.
The fact that the ban ordinance is discussed as an "alternative" rather than the "project description" does not in any way hinder the County's ability to proceed with a ban or to rely on the EIR to support a ban. Indeed, the prior regulatory ordinance from February 2016 is actually the "worst case scenario" from a CEQA standpoint; whereas the ban ordinance is a less impactful alternative.
Other "alternatives" discussed in the original EIR besides 2016 ordinance and the current ban ordinance include the "no project" alternative (meaning that the status quo remains in place) and a reduced impact version of the 2016 ordinance limiting parcels sizes or zones in which cannabis could be cultivated. All four potential methods of regulating cannabis cultivation remain in the current draft, although the ban alternative was further developed and analyzed after the Board determined that its preference was to adopt a ban ordinance and to utilize this EIR for that purpose. The EIR supports the clear intent and direction of the Board to adopt a ban of cannabis cultivation in the County.