Fort Bragg is joining other North Coast cities in limiting marijuana cultivation, citing threats to the area?s housing stock as well as public health and safety.
Fort Bragg?s ordinance ? slated for final adoption Jan. 26 ? is unusual in that it focuses primarily on indoor marijuana cultivation.
?This is new to me,? said Joe Elford, staff attorney with Americans for Safe Access, a national group promoting medicinal uses for marijuana. ?Most of the problems we hear about are with outdoor cultivation.?
Outdoor growing is not an issue in Fort Bragg because it?s too cold and foggy to grow marijuana, officials said. Nevertheless, outdoor growing is banned under the new ordinance.
The ordinance limits indoor growing to a 50-square-foot area per parcel. Variances would be available through a permit process.
?We?re not trying to stop people from growing,? said Fort Bragg Mayor Doug Hammerstrom. He said officials just want the operations to be safe and considerate of neighbors.
The ordinance also prohibits growing marijuana adjacent to schools or public parks; regulates the types of structures and lighting that can be used; and prohibits cultivation for sale.
Violators are subject to prosecution for misdemeanors.
Since marijuana became legal for medicinal use, indoor growing operations have proliferated in Fort Bragg, city and police officials said.
The new ordinance will give police a new tool to combat excessive and illegal marijuana growing, Fort Bragg Police Lt. Mike Richards said.
As elsewhere, pot cultivation in Fort Bragg has generated complaints from neighbors upset about the stench of ripening buds, increased traffic day and night, snarling guard dogs and the potential for electrical fires and armed robberies.
But city officials also are concerned about the increasingly common practice of pot growers using entire houses solely for pot production.
The practice decreases the number of homes available as dwellings, said Community Development Director Marie Jones.
Fort Bragg already suffers from a shortage of affordable housing, she said. The city?s general plan estimates the shortage at 256 units, Jones said. Overall, it has 2,700 housing units available for some 7,000 inhabitants, a majority of whom qualify as low income.
Jones said she?s seen homes that have been entirely gutted and fitted with non-standard wiring that is prone to electrical overloads that can cause fires.
The moisture from the operations also causes unhealthy mold to grow inside the homes, making them uninhabitable, she said.
?We?ve had a couple of examples of buildings being destroyed,? Jones said.
A 100-year-old two-story home in downtown Fort Bragg likely will be demolished because of damage inflicted by marijuana growers, she said.
It was gutted to make more room for the marijuana operation, Jones said. The pot-growing owners walked away from the house as the mortgage meltdown began several years ago, she said.
The ordinance will take effect 30 days after its final approval.
You can reach Staff Writer Glenda Anderson at 462-6473 or email@example.com.