BISBEE — A rezoning for a medical marijuana indoor growing facility and packing office was approved by the county Board of Supervisors during the meeting Tuesday, though not without some protest from the community and Supervisor Peggy Judd.
Seed Capital LLC applied for the rezoning of land at the corner of Fort Grant Road and Harguess Way in a rural, agricultural area to construct greenhouses on four acres of the 62–acre property in a two-phase plan, said Robert Kirschmann, county planner II, to Supervisors Tom Borer, Ann English and Judd. Phase 1 includes 28,000 square feet of greenhouse space, a 3,000-square-foot office and a 3,500-square-foot storage facility. In Phase 2, an additional 28,000 square feet of greenhouses will be built.
In order to accomplish Seed Capital’s plan, the land had to be rezoned from R–36 (one home per 36,000 square feet to RU–4 (one home per four acres), he said.
The rezoning was approved by the county Planning and Zoning Commission, with a few extra conditions, one of which was the state required a 10-foot block wall. In order to improve the viewshed, county staff recommended a two-foot block box for the planting of trees. Seed Capital also is required to construct a two–inch deep gravel parking lot with a dust control system. No customers will be visiting the site.
The county received seven letters of opposition to the rezoning and no letters of support, Kirschmann said. Those in opposition focused on odor, lighting and the required 10–foot block wall, which they saw as an eyesore in the rural landscape. There were those who completely opposed it based on what was being grown, including Judd.
However, as pointed out by Deputy Civil County Attorney Britt Hanson, the supervisors could not deny the rezoning request due to land use.
“You can’t disapprove the request based on the product grown,” he said.
Kim Hilbuen and country store owner Linda Brown suggested the company seek land elsewhere away from the corner where the school bus drops off children.
Brown stated, “We don’t like the idea of a cannabis farm. None of us want this.”
Judd did not understand why staff would allow the proposed vegetation screening when other marijuana grow facilities approved had to build the wall.
Kirschmann said, “We felt it would alleviate some citizen concerns.”
Ron Redburn, who represented the company, said he sent out 62 letters to property owners about the rezoning request and the nature of the agricultural product, but received only seven responses, all in opposition. He suggested those who did not respond be considered as supporting the endeavor.
“We have dealt with all the issues raised in opposition,” Redburn said. “We have agreed to control lighting and prevent any odors escaping the facility.”
Seed Capital will install a special air-cleaning system that will reduce the odor by about 90 percent. There will be no odor beyond 30 feet from the building. With the 1,000-foot setbacks, there will be little chance the odor will be noticeable on Fort Grant Road. To control light from the greenhouses, blackout curtains will be installed.
Prior to the vote, English said, “We can’t consider the product as a reason to disapprove the request. The owner is taking appropriate action to mitigate the concerns and tried to address all the issues. This is the kind of company we want to work with.”
Judd suggested approval would set a precedent, it would be an eyesore and was located on a “major commuter road” that tourists use.
Borer said, “The greenhouses are going to be 1,000 feet from the road. That’s a quarter of a mile away. I’m not concerned with setting a precedent since each request is evaluated on its own.”
Borer and English approved the rezoning with Judd voting nay.
Elections receives fundingThanks to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the county elections department will receive $167,958 from the AzVote Safe Program, established by the governor’s office and the Secretary of State to help mitigate the impact of COVID–19 on the general election and to ensure safe and secure polling locations.
Elections Department Director Lisa Marra said, “This is a formula award amount based on total registered voters with a base allocation of $100,000 and a percentage based on total Arizona voters per county. Arizona has allocated $5,000,000 for this program, split between the counties’ election departments and recorder’s office. Cochise County’s Recorder’s Office did not apply for funds through this program, therefore the Elections Department applied for it and was awarded the full amount allocated to Cochise County.”
The reimbursable grant, with no match required, will cover eligible expenses incurred due to the COVID–19 public health emergency between March 28 through Dec. 3 and is not covered under the county budget, she continued. Eligible expenses considered are ballots, equipment, personnel and supplies to increase the vote-by-mail process, as well as additional postage, printing, mailing costs, temporary staffing, cleaning supplies or services, training of poll workers, public communication for changes in processes, leasing polling locations and automated equipment necessary to process increased vote-by-mail turnout.
Gov. Doug Ducey stated in a letter notifying the supervisors of the award, “The health and safety of our state is our top priority and ensuring that each county is able to provide secure and safe polling location access for the upcoming 2020 election is the key focus of the AZVoteSafe Program.”