Town Hall with Supervisor Ellen Pirie

ellen_pirie2After several recent hearings, the Board has established requirements for medical marijuana dispensaries in the county, and will establish a working group to review other issues, including whether testing of marijuana should be required. With these decisions in mind, what is the Board’s long-term vision for medical marijuana business in Santa Cruz County?
While there is no cap on the number of medical marijuana outlets allowed in the unincorporated county, they must operate as nonprofits. Advertising, labeling, and record-keeping will be regulated. Further, an 800-foot buffer is required between two dispensaries, and dispensaries must be located at least 600 feet from schools.
Once established, a medical marijuana cooperative must meet certain performance standards. Doctors or other medical professionals will not be allowed to write recommendations on-site, and on-site use of the medical marijuana products is prohibited. A working group will be established to consider testing and other issues for possible addition to the regulations at some future time. The new medical marijuana regulations have been a long time coming. In 1996, Santa Cruz County voters passed Proposition 215, the California Compassionate Use Act, by a 74 percent margin. This overwhelming support demonstrated the resolve of our community to ensure access to alternative medicines that provide relief to patients living with cancer, AIDS, chronic pain, and other illnesses.
The new regulations have been welcomed by the long-established Wo/Men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana (WAMM) collective. The ordinance establishes clear rules for our Sheriff’s Office to enforce, provides planning guidance for this new kind of business, and ensures that patients have access to prescribed medicine.
What does the newly approved Vacation RENTAL Ordinance mean for the county?
The vacation rental ordinance will regulate the rental of private homes as short-term (less than 30 days) vacation rentals in the unincorporated areas of Santa Cruz County.
In the future, vacation rentals will have to be licensed by the county and meet certain requirements. The ordinances recognize that these rented vacation homes are, in essence, businesses located in residential areas. On occasion these businesses have a very negative impact on neighborhoods, generating overcrowding conditions, noise, traffic, and trash.
Under the new regulations, vacation rentals will have to obtain a permit from the county, will be limited in the number of occupants and cars, are required to have a local manager on call in case of problems, and can lose their permit for significant violations of the ordinance.
Vacation rentals in the Live Oak area will have stricter limits because there are more such rentals in a relatively small area and these rentals are having a more negative impact on the neighborhoods. In the Live Oak Designated Area (LODA), there will be limitations on the number of vacation rentals allowed so that no area contains predominately vacation rental houses rather than owner occupied or long-term rentals.
Vacation rentals are allowed in all zone districts that allow residential uses, with the exception of commercial districts. Once a vacation rental has been established, the renewal of the permit will be required every five years within the Live Oak area.  A vacation rental permit issued outside of Live Oak will run with the land in perpetuity.  
However, as indicated above, a permit anywhere within the County or Live Oak can be revoked if there are significant violations.
What was the outcome of the proposal to close four of the public library branches?
The Library Board of Directors considered the proposal to close library branches (Felton, Garfield Park, Branciforte and La Selva Beach) but ultimately decided against it. The library board created a small task force to work out a plan to keep all branches open. The task force came back to the library board in April with a plan to keep all the branches open and increase open hours. This expansion was adopted by the board on a seven to two vote.  In the future, the library will be expanding its volunteer program and will rely more on volunteers to help serve the public.  

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