Humboldt Boutique Farms president Ian Herndon talks to the board of supervisors about extensive efforts meant to mitigate concerns raised about the proposed Fortuna area cultivation business. (Ruth Schneider — The Times-Standard)
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During a marathon session of the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors, the supervisors voted this afternoon to deny an appeal of a proposed Fortuna cannabis cultivation business with several conditions. The proposed business can now move forward.

The hotly contested proposal would put a 13,000-square-foot building on Drake Hill Road in Fortuna’s sphere of influence. The Humboldt County Planning Commission approved the project from Humboldt Boutique Gardens earlier this year but the city of Fortuna appealed the project to the supervisors.

The board denied the appeal in a 4-1 vote, with 2nd District Estelle Fennell dissenting.

“The applicant has gone way, way above and beyond,” 5th District Supervisor Ryan Sundberg said of the efforts to mitigate a slew of concerns raised by residents and Fortuna city officials.

Concerns raised include impacts to odor, noise, traffic and crime.

Planning staff outlined how each of the concerns was addressed.

“All of the odor will be scrubbed before it’s vented to the outside,” said Michelle Nielson of the county’s Planning and Building Department.

She said that the carbon filtration system that Humboldt Boutique Gardens will be using will see the filters replaced annually, rather than every other year, the projected length of time the filters function optimally.

Ian Herndon, the company’s president said employees would be asked to come to work before and after peak commuting hours and deliveries would be routed around the city of Fortuna to alleviate traffic concerns.

“Our No. 1 objective is to be a good and clean and quiet neighbor,” Herndon told the supervisors. “We are local and will be available to address concerns at any time.”

The city of Fortuna said it plans to annex the area where the business is proposed and its current ordinance prohibits any cannabis activities aside from personal grows. It took issue with the zoning, which the county deems is light industrial, while the city views it as agricultural exclusive.

The city cited the Q overlay that outlines the type of businesses that could be allowed in the area.

“Cannabis is not there,” said interim City Manager Merritt Perry. “It was not contemplated in 1985.”

Third District Supervisor Mike Wilson pointed out that mini-storage is also not one of the outlined uses, but nobody protested mini-storage facilities in the vicinity.

“The real issue is we have two competing ordinances,” Perry added.

The most pointed concerns about the business came from neighboring residents.

“I personally went to 154 homes (within 1,000 feet of the business),” said Fortuna resident Randy Anderson. “… 150 of those signed the petition saying they didn’t want this in their neighborhood.”

That was something Fennell said she took into account in the final vote.

“It looks to me like a very large percentage of the neighborhood does not feel good about this business,” she said.

Fourth District Supervisor Virginia Bass said she took petitions “with a grain of salt” because the way people phrase a question can influence an answer.

Multiple commenters spoke in favor of the business, including one Fortuna council member.

“I do feel this applicant will keep his word and follow the rules,” said Councilwoman Tami Trent. “… This actually sounds like a really good project.”

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