Trinity County and Trinity Action Association, a local nonprofit organization, have announced a settlement of a lawsuit filed by TAA earlier this year. The lawsuit alleged that since first enacting commercial cannabis cultivation ordinances in 2016 the county has failed to comply with the California Public Records Act and the California Environmental Quality Act in the processing and issuing of both new and renewal individual cultivation licenses.
While the county initially disputed some of TAA’s allegations, the settlement agreement acknowledges the lawsuit was brought in the public interest and specifies detailed procedures for members of the public to review and obtain copies of the Planning Department’s files on specific license applications as well as a new, step-by-step process for compliance with CEQA on both initial and renewal cultivation licenses. The agreement also provides that the court will retain jurisdiction for two years for monitoring of compliance with the settlement agreement, and for the county to pay attorney’s fees TAA incurred in pursuing the litigation.
The issues in this case did not involve the Environmental Impact Report being prepared for a new set of cannabis ordinances the county will enact after completing the EIR that is now in process. TAA attorney Jim Underwood stated that TAA plans to remain active with respect to EIR review, adoption and implementation. He anticipates that TAA will be generally supportive of the EIR to the extent that it adequately identifies and mitigates environmental impacts associated with cannabis cultivation in Trinity County.
“This has always been about following the CEQA and public records access laws in a transparent way, and thereby enabling concerned property owners to weigh in on proposed cannabis operations without undue obstacles,” Underwood said, adding that settlement agreement furthers those goals.
In announcing the settlement of the litigation Underwood and County Administrative Officer Richard Kuhns agreed the settlement was effectively negotiated. Kuhns stated that he believes “settlement of the lawsuit is beneficial to the county and public in that it will allow for the focus to be on completing the EIR process now underway.”
Kuhns added, “It is in everyone’s best interest to move forward so that time and money is not further spent on issues that are easily agreed to or items already implemented in our process.”