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Neighbors complain about pot grows outside city

Some residents in Central Point’s urban growth reserve are up in arms about marijuana being grown just outside the city.

Homegrown recreational and medical marijuana inside the city of Central Point can only be grown indoors, and the plants "must not be perceptible from the exterior of the household, housing unit, and/or indoor structure," according to city code.

A handful of residents complained to City Council last week about large marijuana grows just outside the city, raising concerns such as odors and impacts to water wells.

City officials say their hands are tied until such areas are annexed into city limits.

Gene Johnson, who lives along Linden Lane, urged the city to expand city regulations that limit pot growing into the urban reserve area. Johnson, who also owns property near Grant Road, said he planned to address the council again when it meets at 7 p.m. Thursday, at 140 S. Third St.

“I used to live on Grant Road, between Taylor and Scenic, and there are four major pot farms there now. It used to be a nice neighborhood. There are people growing it in the urban growth boundary, too,” Johnson said.

“I have 13 acres on Linden Lane in R5 zoning, and I can’t even give one of my kids five acres because I’m within one mile of the city limits. But the city has no control over pot farms right outside the city?”

Community Development Director Tom Humphrey said the city has limited control outside city limits but would work with county officials to request notification when a grow is approved in urban reserve areas.

When the urban reserve was created, "no one envisioned having to plan for large pot grows/farms. A significant amount of land in URA CP-6 (west of Grant Road) is zoned Exclusive Farm Use, and pot farms are a permitted use in that zone,” Humphrey explained in an email to the Mail Tribune.

“Unfortunately, there are a lot of homes in proximity to this zoning. Some of it is Rural Residential (RR-5, RR-2.5, UR-1) land in the county, and some of it is low-density residential in the city. If land is brought into the UGB and then annexed, the pot farm would have to go away, and personal grows would have to go under cover. ‘Grandfathering,’ if we allowed it for properties like this, would only last until a grow is harvested. That’s how we transitioned in the past before the council adopted the indoor rule.”

Additional residents joined Johnson at the recent meeting. Grant Road resident Charlie Bulbert told the council that city zoning laws should apply to properties intended to be brought into city limits and voiced concerns about the number of plants being grown versus the number permitted under state guidelines.

Johnson said that marijuana aside, neighboring property owners should have at least the same rights as those growing pot.

“It’s draining our wells," Johnson said (attribution corrected from previous version). "I had a good well on Grant Road. They’re using the water to irrigate with and they’ve got big tanks they’re storing it in and running everyone’s wells way down."

City Administrator Chris Clayton said the city hoped to meet with concerned residents next week to discuss the issue.

“We’ve heard residents’ concerns, and we are currently working with the county to at least make sure that folks are made aware of when a land-use decision is being made pertaining to marijuana being grown around their property,” Clayton said.

“Here’s the rub. The county is willing to change the language in its procedures that would require notice to anyone who lives in the affected area. Unfortunately, it would not affect the decision-making process, and the neighbor’s only recourse would be to appeal to (the state Land Use Board of Appeals). Because it’s a permitted use, their chances of winning an appeal would be limited.”

— Reach freelance writer Buffy Pollock at buffyp76@yahoo.com.