Darryl Snow: A growing pain in neighborhood

It’s about a five-minute drive from our neighborhood to downtown Grass Valley. We’ve spent recent years improving our home and working with our neighbors to get our properties fire ready because that was our biggest concern, until now.

A property was recently sold near the end of our short street and it is now being developed as a commercial cultivation operation. If this hasn’t happened in your neighborhood, then you cannot fully understand the impact that it has on your sense of well being, and I hope you’ll try to put yourself in our shoes.

For the simple reason that our neighborhood was zoned AG (for agriculture) at some point in history, it appears that anyone can develop a commercial pot farm without any regard or consideration for the neighbors, and by the way, this is the first AG project that any of us are aware of in our neighborhood’s history.

We are a residential neighborhood. We’ve had no real say in the matter, and we’re limited to commenting in forums like this. We’re all on wells and see the effects of drought. We’re also concerned that the Idaho-Maryland gold mine will reopen and pump over a million gallons per day for the next 70 years.

That’s enough daily water supply for every person in Grass Valley, but that’s another story. Our little road that we all maintain and pay for is now being subjected to commercial use. I’m told that it is the fire marshalls opinion that our road is not zoned for commercial use, but that doesn’t seem to matter.

We’ve been listening to trees falling and heavy equipment for the past month, and watching our road get abused by this new heavy traffic and the new strangers. It may get interesting around harvest time when armed criminals could come looking for opportunities, especially with children playing in the yard next door to this operation, separated only by a short fence.

We neighbors had a meeting with the grower, and he said that this is his dream. One neighbor responded by saying, “This is our nightmare,” and it is. I three heirloom tomato plants in my yard each year.

The new neighbor is growing 1,500 pot plants outdoors this year with plans to expand. There are no limits on how much groundwater he can extract. If our wells run dry, then our home values will plummet and there is no recourse but to have water delivered for $1,000 per month with no responsibility on the part of the pot grower. We can hardly wait to smell the skunky aroma in the coming months.

We all recently received a letter from a representative of the pot grower that concluded that County is a right-to-farm county and that we shall not attempt to prohibit farming activities. It went on to say that Nevada County has determined that inconveniences or discomforts with agricultural operations shall not be considered to be a nuisance if such operations are consistent with accepted customs and standards.

Well, I guess that it’s the county’s position that all of my grievances listed above are now considered to be consistent with conditions that are acceptable. There should be some distinction between normal agriculture and commercial pot farming. I hear that Mendocino and Humboldt counties are becoming more restrictive due to lessons learned, and that the pot growers are moving their operations to Nevada County as a result.

Maybe we should slow things down here before the groundwater supplies, property values, air quality, public health, safety, and quality of life are further diminished. I don’t know if there is anything that can be done at this point, but I ask you to please try to bring positive change going forward.

Commercial pot farms should not be in residential neighborhoods, and I hope that some of you can understand why. If you do, please do what you can to stop allowing this to happen in our neighborhoods. If your street is zoned AG, this could happen to you.

Darryl Snow lives in Grass Valley.

More: Darryl Snow: A growing pain in neighborhood

More from CA - The Union