I write to offer my support for the comment letters submitted by MCA and by Chantal Simonpietri of Mainspring Consulting. I have worked with Chantal over the last 2+ years to develop an Appendix G for our farm at great effort and substantial cost. I urge the board to allow for processing of Appendix G applications that are already submitted. The turnabout is stunning after having been told so many times by the county that this was the only path forward. I would call in to the meeting to comment but I will be harvesting vegetables for the Laytonville Farmers Market. Thank you for taking the time to review the comments submitted, and I trust you will make the appropriate decision in this matter.
Please review the attached memo from MCA with questions and considerations for the 06-26 GGC meeting.
We are available to discuss in advance of the meeting if that would be helpful.
Mendocino Cannabis Alliance
June 23, 2023
Re: Mendocino Cannabis Department Monthly Activity Report – Appendix G processing
Dear General Governance Committee,
I respectfully request the General Governance Committee take action to reverse the recent Mendocino Cannabis Department (MCD) decision regarding processing of Appendix G materials. Please confer and cooperate with whoever the other necessary decision makers are at the state level and develop a solution that demonstrates accountability to the local constituents who acted in a responsible way based upon direction provided by the MCD.
If, after determined advocacy by the MCD to the Department of Cannabis Control (DCC), the parallel pathway option is truly no longer viable, then I request moderate measures to accommodate those that already acted, including processing of the thirty-nine (39) Appendix G’s submitted to the MCD, and a determination that expenses incurred by operators toward CEQA document preparation be eligible for inclusion in LEEP and LJAGP grant budgets.
Work performed by operators in reliance upon direction provided by the MCD was reasonable. Operators relied upon the promise made by the County that Appendix G materials were required in order for the local jurisdiction to certify the project as having achieved CEQA review. Following such direction and presentation, operators expended time and money in detrimental reliance upon the County’s direction.
Over a multi-year period, and up to as recently as this month, the MCD conveyed through numerous print and digital efforts, and in-person informational meetings, that site-specific Appendix G materials needed to be generated by each project, and advised individual operators to hire a consultant to prepare the required documentation. The MCD solicited and received submissions from private companies for the purpose of creating a list of CEQA consultants, since the perception was that the local pool of qualified consultants would not be able to provide services to meet the demand.
In collaboration with WRA, Inc., an environmental services firm and approved CEQA consultant on the MCD list, I assisted trusting, early-acting operators with site specific biological assessments and CEQA Project Description and Appendix G document generation. The collaborative working relationship between WRA and Mainspring Consulting began in February 2021 and resulted in seven (7) completed Appendix G submissions to the MCD over a time period stretching from August 2021 to May 2023. The cumulative cost incurred by operators for CEQA-related services was approximately $105,000, or $15,000 per project. Similarly and separately, twenty-four (24) projects contracted with WRA, Inc. to provide biological assessment services and reports to meet the sensitive resources review portion of the CEQA Appendix G checklist, at an average per project cost of $8,000. For biological services alone, this totals to $192,000 spent by responsible, local business owners, trying to do what they were told was necessary to do. The combination of the two components (CEQA documents and biological assessment) averages to $23,000 of cost incurred by the small business owner.
The June 26, 2023 MCD Monthly Activity Report, Department Deliverables portion on page 5, states that: “MCD will no longer be processing Appendix G’s for phase one and two applications. Depending on the outcome of the current conversations with the DCC, cultivators may still be able to utilize their completed Appendix G materials with the DCC. MCD is still considering whether Appendix G’s will be reviewed for Phase Three applications.”
The abrupt position by the MCD that they will no longer be processing Appendix G materials after years of claiming they were required and encouraging operators to bear the burden of the cost is inconsiderate and irresponsible. Detriment incurred by cultivators is directly connected to the MCDs reversal of direction and refusal to process. Cultivators relied upon abundant statements made by the MCD that Appendix G’s were required, and that operators should pay for private consultants to prepare materials, and that those materials would be reviewed by the MCD, and subsequent CEQA certification would be provided to the DCC, and enable the provisional license to transition to an annual.
I implore you to be accountable to your constituents and take the following actions:
1. Reverse the decision made within the MCD to no longer process Appendix G materials. Deliberately advocate to the DCC for the best interest of all cultivator business owners, not just those that have not yet paid out-of-pocket for CEQA related services.
2. Formulate a resolution with the DCC that allows for those Appendix G’s already submitted to the MCD to be reviewed, and to progress those local permittees to state annuals. This would include direction to staff to, internally or via contract planners, review and process the Appendix G submissions already received by the MCD. (Assuming that an Appendix G review takes a high average of 10 hours, at an average rate of $110/hour, then the review cost per checklist is $1,100; for the 39 being held by the MCD, the total cost would be $42,900.)
3. Allow all costs associated with CEQA document preparation to be eligible expenses under either LEEP, LJAGP, or other grant programs. Even if the cost expenditure occurred prior to the date of grant application approval, expenses incurred in reliance upon direction provided by the DCC, MCD, County Counsel, and Board of Supervisors, should qualify as reimbursable expenses. Appropriate expenses include CEQA consultant costs, biological reports, and any other studies required to substantiate the Project Description and Appendix G checklist.
Thank you for your time and consideration of this matter.