El Dorado County’s 1st cannabis farm OK’d to sprout

Eric Jaramishian
Mountain Democrat

Cybele Holdings became the first cannabis cultivation farm to be approved in El Dorado County May 12.

After months waiting to get his application recommended by the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office, Cybele Holdings CEO Lee Tannenbaum got the green light by a unanimous Planning Commission for his cannabis cultivation business.

“I am still feeling the weight come off my shoulders,” Tannenbaum told the Mountain Democrat. “We are pleased that the Planning Commission passed us and we are extremely pleased to be the first legal cultivators granted a conditional use permit in El Dorado County.”

Even though county cannabis operation was approved by voters in 2018, it took Cybele Holdings more than two years to get through a county-implemented interim background check process, which caused controversy among prospective growers, who said it was too invasive and extensive.

Now, the business can grow up to 2 acres of legal cannabis on the Freshwater Lane property in South County.

But for Tannenbaum, there is still work to be done.

During the hearing, Tannenbaum recommended reinstating the cannabis ad hoc Committee or sitting down with county counsel to go over the county cannabis ordinance to make the cultivation approval process simpler.

“I know these are things which we would like to make simpler and I want to help,” Tannenbaum said. “Because right now, the way the system is designed, there is no way for someone trying to get social equity to get a license in this county and that has a lot to do with the timing and background checks.”

Cybele Holdings will conduct outdoor cannabis cultivation for the first two years then will transition to greenhouse mixed-light cultivation by the third year.

The Planning Commission’s approval comes with a list of conditions.

One of them, which Tannanebaum said is a major concern, includes having a designated local contact available 24/7 in case the county needs to reach someone to solve any issues in a timely fashion.

“If we hire someone as the contact, it could jeopardize our license because they could make a bad call or decision and our license could be revoked, and they also have to go through background checks, which is a lengthy process here at the moment,” Tannenbaum said.

Cybele Holdings is also required to put a turnout near the farm, which would necessitate the property owner on another piece of land to give the business the right of way to make a 12-foot by 400-foot turnout for a fire truck. If the owner disagrees, Cybele Holdings will have to file a waiver.

The cultivation business will have to notify all property owners in the area within 1,000 feet of the farm within a week of commencing operations.

District 2 Planning Commissioner Kris Payne, who represents the district where the now-approved farm is located, told the Mountain Democrat any changes to those regulations will need to addressed with the county.

“You have to be able to meet all the obligations laid out in front of you and if the person doesn’t do an adequate job in terms of figuring out how they’re going to manage this, then these permits are in jeopardy,” Payne said. “But because it’s the first one, there may be some post-approval dialogue that has to go on between the county about these obligations.”

Residents living near the farm expressed concerns about the business during its California Environmental Quality Act and Planning Commission review, including issues of odor, noise, lighting and security.

To help address these problems, Tannenbaum said he is willing to cooperate with neighboring property owners.

“I have reached out multiple times to try to assuage the concerns that our neighbors have and I believe I am doing an OK job,” Tannenbaum said. “I want to be a good neighbor and if there are any issues, I want people to call me and I’ll fix it.”

There is a 10-day appeal window for residents wishing to challenge the Planning Commission’s approval of the cultivation farm.

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