BISBEE — A new medical marijuana grow and infusion facility on Fort Grant Road in Willcox will move forward after the Board of Supervisors reversed its decision on an appeal to deny a special use authorization granted by the Planning and Zoning Commission’s to Willcox OC LLC.
With a lawsuit threatened, the Board of Supervisors reheard John Holcomb’s appeal on Tuesday. He owns Apple Annie’s, which has a you-pick-it vegetable and pumpkin patch across the road from the 318-acre plot Willcox OC LLC plans to buy from owner Kim Bennett.
The Willcox OC LLC proposal includes approximately 63 acres of outdoor grow, 817,120 square feet of new greenhouses, 140,000 square feet of processing and a 5,100-square-foot office and security building and a 30,640-square-foot storage building.
Supervisors Ann English and Tom Crosby voted to deny the Holcomb appeal, with Crosby reversing his previous vote, with Supervisor Peggy Judd voting no during Tuesday’s meeting. The vote meant the special use authorization was reinstated and the project could move forward.
The lawsuit, filed against the county last month by Bennett and Willcox OC LLC, claimed Judd and Crosby “acted arbitrarily, capriciously, erroneously and contrary to law” and did not provide appropriate and lawful reasons to approve Holcomb’s appeal. They voted in favor of Holcomb’s appeal during the April 20 meeting. They cited odor as a nuisance and thus revoked the special use permit the county Planning and Zoning Commission approved in a 5 to 2 vote in the April 14 meeting.
Christine McLachlan, planner II, addressed the board stating, “The application for an appeal of a special use authorization must include a complete statement of all reasons why the appellant believes that the decision, or any part of the decision, was erroneous, arbitrary, capricious, or an abuse of discretion.”
The appellant must also present written additional testimony and evidence with an explanation of why this was not presented to the commission meeting, she added. Although the board can review the special use factors considered by the Planning and Zoning Commission, the supervisors’ decision “whether to affirm, deny or modify a special use, must be based on one or both of the above requirements.”
Further, she said, planning staff added a condition that odors escaping the property be addressed to maintain the special use permit authorization.
Adam Baugh, representing Willcox OC LLC, pointed out the county does not have an odor abatement clause in the zoning code. Even so, the operators will use new technology to help mask the odor from the indoor and outdoor plantings.
John Chapman, Fog Co Systems senior designer, explained the worldwide company has 30 years of experience in odor management. The company designed a new, high pressure, mist system that deploys fine, micron–sized streams of water and an undefined mixture to neutralize odors at the site. The system would be installed and ring the outdoor growing operation as well as the greenhouse and processing buildings to prevent most odor from circulating beyond the property.
Holcomb and others wanted the board to uphold his appeal due to the odor and the lack of evidence to prove the planned system will alleviate it.
“This sounds like a great plan on paper, but not in the real world,” said Holcomb. “The condition cannot be met.”
Resident Merlin Hamilton, whose home is a mile from the proposed site, said he was “concerned” with the chemicals used in the mixture and cited Monsanto’s health problems with Roundup, which was discovered only after years of use. He also suggested banning outdoor marijuana growing.
Bennett told the supervisors, “This will provide jobs in an area that needs them and helps with the tax base. It sets a better opportunity for improvement of the standard of life for the community.”
Judd voted against denying the Holcomb appeal saying, “There were dissenting votes from the commission and I support them. I do feel odor was not considered. I side with Apple Annie’s and my vote will reflect that. We need to be supportive of local businesses.”