Saturday, November 16, 2019

Charmaine Lawson Holds 31-month Vigil for Her Son, Hopes Documentary Will Bring Outside Attention to Unsolved Case

Posted By on Sat, Nov 16, 2019 at 10:30 AM

It has been 31 months since Humboldt State University sophomore David Josiah Lawson was killed.

On Friday, the anniversary of her 19-year-old son’s death, a group of a few dozen students and community members surrounded Charmaine Lawson at a small vigil at the Arcata Methodist Church, during which the group watched Who Killed Josiah?, a short documentary by the Southern California station KCET that they hope will bring renewed attention to the still-unsolved killing. (Find the documentary embedded below.)

31st_vigil.jpeg
The documentary describes Arcata as a town “polarized over allegations of racism and police incompetence surrounding the death of college student Josiah Lawson.” For Charmaine Lawson, the documentary is an emotional roller coaster.

“Watching it the first time was heartbreaking,” she says. “When I saw the documentary the first time, I didn’t talk to anyone for two weeks. I was in another zone — very difficult to watch.”

David Josiah Lawson, a criminology major from the city of Perris in Riverside County, was stabbed to death at an off-campus party around 3 a.m. April 15th 2017. Kyle Zoellner, a then 23-year-old McKinleyville man, was arrested at the scene and charged with Lawson’s murder but the charge was dismissed weeks later, when Humboldt County Superior Court Judge Dale Reinholsten found insufficient evidence to hold him.

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Friday, November 15, 2019

Briceland Road Closure May Not Be Needed

Posted By on Fri, Nov 15, 2019 at 1:17 PM

A culvert area in Whitmore Grove west of Redway is failing and undercutting the asphalt. - PHOTO PROVIDED BY SUPERVISOR ESTELLE FENNELL
  • Photo provided by Supervisor Estelle Fennell
  • A culvert area in Whitmore Grove west of Redway is failing and undercutting the asphalt.
Steve Finch, the county of Humboldt’ road division manager, hopes the Briceland road closure might not have to happen.

The culprit, a failing culvert on Briceland Thorn Road just west of Redway, had State Parks and the county for ways to make the repairs, which originally included making upgrades on the only available detour — Old Briceland Road — then closing Briceland Thorn Road for an estimated two weeks of work.

While one of the most traveled rural roads in Humboldt County was closed for repairs, traffic would be diverted to Old Briceland Road, where improvements are currently underway.

Finch said that the county has a new proposal for the collapsing culvert that could keep Briceland Thorn Road open while it is being worked on, allowing one lane traffic to pass through the area during construction.

Finch believes that after repairing the culvert bed with concrete, a PVC liner can be used to repair the pipe.

New traffic signals for one lane traffic control were scheduled to be put in place today. Then, on Saturday, workers will begin digging on the failed culvert, removing a section.

After filling the voids in the damaged culvert, about two days of work, crews will then pull a flat liner made of PVC-type material through the culvert.
“They heat it up with steam until it is like a noodle,” Finch said.

The liner is then expanded to fill the existing pipe area. Afterward, cold air is pumped through the “noodle,” which fixes the liner into the new shape. This will take another day, he said.

“One lane, with this plan, will always stay open,” Finch said, adding it will cut the previous up to one-hour delays down to just minutes.

“If this option goes as planned, we will only have to keep one lane closed in [Whittemore Grove],” states a press release issued by the County. This means traffic will not have to be rerouted over Old Briceland Road.

“If this does not work, we will have to go to Plan B, which is a full road closure for approximately 10 days,” the press release notes.

Finch is very hopeful though. “I believe it will work,” he said.
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Thursday, November 14, 2019

North Coast Night Lights: A Handful of Night Light

Posted By on Thu, Nov 14, 2019 at 1:03 PM

From Patrick’s Point, to the Avenue of the Giants, to the Lost Coast of legend, I give you … a handful of seven lovely Humboldt nights. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • From Patrick’s Point, to the Avenue of the Giants, to the Lost Coast of legend, I give you … a handful of seven lovely Humboldt nights.
I was in a situation not long ago with a handful of nights with which I knew not what to do. How many nights are there in a handful? You might wonder, though I never had, but it turns out that it depends on how big they are. The nights, not the hands … well, and the hands. In this case, it worked out such that when my wife held out her hands, I poured about a week’s worth of nights into them: seven magical evenings of North Coast Night Light to share with you here. Let’s pop among them for a little tour.

Were I to pour these evenings into your hand just so, inside the globe at the tip of your fingers you would find yourself high up in a quiet rocky grotto in the forest. The air is still in your protected eyrie, but its rush soughs softly through the forest all around you. An opening in the foliage reveals the Eel River far below, gliding between redwood-covered hillsides. A dazzling night sky dominated by the Milky Way reaches across from horizon to horizon like a great tear in the sky.

A step clockwise and you find yourself pushing through from one scene to the next in your handful of evenings. You’re above U.S. highway 101 now, standing beside the Avenue of the Giants where it passes over the Redwood Highway. It’s near midnight, and the only cars out this late zip by on the freeway below, each zooming past in its individual bubble of light. If you could watch with the patient eye of the camera rather than your own, you would see the cars as meteors trailing streaks of light that each become part of the scene. Several of them might pass by before you blinked once, each dragging their light tails behind them and adding their brushwork of light to the trees on either hand.

One night slips quietly into the next. So peaceful is this one, sitting beside the banks of the South Fork Eel River on a warm summer’s night. You steep there for a while with the redwood forest around you and the soft sounds of water playing along the shore beside you. Surrounded by a skyline of giant redwood silhouettes reaching into higher into the heavens than any other living organism, you consider small you are among living things.

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Outer Space is Losing Its Space

Posted By on Thu, Nov 14, 2019 at 11:33 AM

The Outer Space Collective announced today via Instagram that it will have to find a new home in a month's time. The 1110 M St. building where the organization has held performances, workshops and community meetings and events since 2017  has been sold, and members are in the process of hunting down a new location, starting with an "emergency planning meeting" on Friday at 7 p.m.

The post asks for support with the transition in the form of: "Having your classes and workshops, coming to our final shows, giving us a heads up on real estate options, and offering help with the move and storage space in the case of an interim time between spaces."

Collective member Lisken Rossi says the organization has known about the impending sale of the building for about a year but, “It was all taking so long, some of us were like, it’s been so long maybe the sale’s not actually going through.”

Ice Balloons at an Outer Space show in October of 2017. - FILE
  • File
  • Ice Balloons at an Outer Space show in October of 2017.

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CHP, Sheriff's Office Upping the Enforcement Ante on Driving Around Livestock

Posted By on Thu, Nov 14, 2019 at 10:04 AM

Cattle on Old Briceland Road will have to share their grazing ground with impatient travelers later this month. - PHOTO COURTESY OF MARIANNE ODISIO
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF MARIANNE ODISIO
  • Cattle on Old Briceland Road will have to share their grazing ground with impatient travelers later this month.
The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office and CHP are jointly “beefing up” (their words, not ours) enforcement around and awareness of driving on county roads with livestock crossings.

According to a release, both agencies “CHP have received numerous reports of livestock being struck by motorists” over the last year.

“As a rural county, several Humboldt County roads have easements granting the public passage through otherwise private lands; some of these lands being livestock pastures,” the release states.

“On county roads with easements, livestock have the right of way. While a fence is still needed to keep them on their property, it is not needed to keep them off the section of the road running through the property (often marked by cattle guards).
This does not apply to state highways, where a lawful fence is required, and livestock are not permitted to freely cross,” it continues.

One of the roads where this might occur is Old Briceland Road, which is receiving an upgrade to act as a detour for when the county starts repairs on Briceland Thorn Road, likely at the end of month.

As Marianne Odisio — who delivers mail in the area — says in this week’s JournalRough Road Ahead," Old Briceland Road runs through the working cattle ranch and this is calving season.
Calves from a previous year watching a vehicle pass along Old Briceland Road. - PHOTO COURTESY OF MARIANNE ODISIO
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF MARIANNE ODISIO
  • Calves from a previous year watching a vehicle pass along Old Briceland Road.
"For the first few days of a calf's life, they are pretty clueless about vehicles," she said, adding that she’s also worried about the safety of domestic animals and wildlife in the area. "Sometimes ... a newborn calf will be standing on its wobbly little newborn legs in the middle of the road and you will have to slow down or stop until they get safely out of your way."

The release also notes that a driver can face hit and run charges for leaving the scene after striking livestock.

Read the full HCSO and CHP release below:


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Wednesday, November 13, 2019

UPDATE: Cullen Arrested With Help of SoHum Citizens, County Workers

Posted By on Wed, Nov 13, 2019 at 1:52 PM

Robert Cullen in handcuffs. - PHOTOS BY JESSE JEFFRIES
  • Photos by Jesse Jeffries
  • Robert Cullen in handcuffs.
Humboldt County Sheriff’s deputies took Robert Joseph Cullen into custody this afternoon near Tooby Park, confirmed Samantha Karges, spokesperson for the office. A citizen “saw him walking in the Sprowel Creek area and called it in,” she said.

This marks the second time in two days that community members have worked to helped law enforcement stop the fleeing suspect.

Yesterday, a Humboldt County roadworker saw law enforcement pursing the suspect and two others in a vehicle out Old Briceland Road, said Steve Finch, road division manager for the County of Humboldt. The worker called ahead and arranged for a large dump truck to be parked across the road.

The suspects’ vehicle struck the dump truck and the suspects were forced to flee on foot. Two were taken into custody last night, but Cullen managed to escape only to be caught today.
Robert Cullen is arrested. - PHOTO BY JESSE JEFFRIES
  • Photo by Jesse Jeffries
  • Robert Cullen is arrested.
On Nov. 10, deputies sighted Cullen, a wanted felony warrant subject driving in Redway. They attempted to stop him but he fled striking a number of police vehicles.

A helicopter, a K-9 unit and a CHP plane were used to attempt to capture the suspect. But it took teamwork with the community to capture the elusive man.

With the help of citizen sightings, Cullen was taken into custody after deputies tracked him to Tooby Memorial Park, where he tried to again evade law enforcement by swimming across the South Fork of the Eel River.

Deputies were waiting on the other side.

According to a release, Cullen was booked on suspicion of felony evading, possession of a controlled substance while armed, assault with a deadly weapon other than a firearm, possession of a controlled substance, possession of a controlled substance for sales, transportation of a controlled substance for sales, felon in possession of a firearm, person prohibited in possession of ammunition, felon in possession of body armor, possession of a switch-blade knife, misdemeanor vandalism and violation of probation.

A woman arrested after fleeing from the car after the crash also gave deputies a false name and is now facing additional charges, according to a HCSO release.

Read the release from the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office below:
On Nov. 13, 2019, at about 12:15 p.m., the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Emergency Communications Center received multiple citizen tips regarding the whereabouts of wanted felony warrant subject Robert Joseph Cullen.

Multiple citizens reported seeing Cullen walking along Sprowel Creek Road. Using citizen information, deputies were able to track Cullen to Tooby Memorial Park. During a search of the park and surrounding areas, Cullen was seen attempting to flee from deputies by swimming across the South Fork of the Eel River. Deputies were waiting on the other side of the river bar and were able to apprehend Cullen when he exited the water.

A female associated with Cullen was also contacted on scene and provided deputies with a false name. The female was later identified as 29-year-old Victoria Courtney Jordan. Jordan was arrested and booked into the Humboldt County Correctional Facility on charges of false identification to a peace officer.

Cullen was booked into the Humboldt County Correctional Facility on charges of: felony evading, possession of a controlled substance while armed, assault with a deadly weapon other than a firearm, possession of a controlled substance, possession of a controlled substance for sales, transportation of a controlled substance for sales, felon in possession of a firearm, person prohibited in possession of ammunition, felon in possession of body armor, possession of a switch-blade knife, misdemeanor vandalism and violation of probation.

The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office would like to thank the multiple citizens who provided detailed information to our agency regarding Cullen’s description and whereabouts.

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FIFTH UPDATE: Wanted Felony Warrant Suspect Arrested

Posted By on Wed, Nov 13, 2019 at 1:10 PM

Cullen - HCSO
  • HCSO
  • Cullen
BREAKING: Robert Cullen has been arrested, according to the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office.

Another man, 53-year-old Gregory Michael Benson, and 18-year-old Gabrielle Marie Jensen were also arrested following a pursuit that began just after 2 p.m. Tuesday when deputies on patrol in the Garberville area attempted a routine traffic stop on Sprowel Creek Road for a vehicle code violation.

In a release sent out before the announcement of Cullen’s arrest, the HCSO said California Highway Patrol aircraft and a Fish and Wildlife K9 Unit assisted in a ground search after all three fled on foot after colliding with a dump truck on Old Briceland Road during the pursuit.

The exact details of how and where Cullen was taken into custody was not immediately available.
FOURTH UPDATE:

Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office reports that a male suspect with Robert Cullen has been apprehended but as of 5 p.m. Cullen has not. The office asks Sprowel Creek residents to keep doors and windows locked, not to pick up hitchhikers and to call 011 if Cullen is spotted.

THIRD UPDATE:

Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Samantha Karges tells Redheaded Blackbelt that Old Briceland Road is open and residents can travel through the area. “Please don’t pick up any hitchhikers on the road,” she said.

SECOND UPDATE:

The Humboldt County Sheriff's Office reports a CHP aircraft has joined the search  for the suspects along with a K9 unit from the Department of Fish and Wildlife.

UPDATE:

Wanted suspect Robert Cullen was last seen headed west-northwest on foot from 2600 block of Old Briceland Road. “Residents of area are asked to lock doors and stay inside while law enforcement activities continue,” HCSO tweets.

According to the HCSO, Cullen is believed to be “armed and dangerous.” Anyone who spots him or another male believed to be with him and wearing a green T-shirt is asked to call 911.

PREVIOUSLY:

The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office warned folks around Old Briceland/Sprowel Creek roads that a pursuit was underway at 2:20 p.m. and asked people to avoid the area and “take caution.”

One woman has been detained but Robert Cullen, who has a felony warrant and evaded deputies on Sunday during a chase in which he struck multiple patrol vehicles in the Seeley Creek area, is still at large and fled on foot out of the car being pursued.

His car found in “heavy brush” after the first pursuit had “multiple firearms, ammunition and magazines, body armor, a large amount of cash, approximately 148 grams of heroin, approximately 1 pound of methamphetamine, approximately 23 pounds of cannabis packaged for sales, prescription medications and materials consistent with the sale of controlled substances.”
Facebook post from the HCSO:
HCSO deputies are currently searching for wanted felony warrant subject Robert Cullen in the area of the 2600 block of Old Briceland Road. Cullen and two others were involved in a vehicle pursuit with deputies on Sprowel Creek Road at approximately 2:20 pm today (11/12). Cullen was last seen fleeing N/NW on foot from Old Briceland Road wearing a gray sweatshirt, tan beanie, blue jeans and white shoes. Residents in the Sprowel Creek / Old Briceland Road area are being asked to lock their doors and stay inside while law enforcement is active.

Fish and Wildlife K9 team and CHP aircraft are assisting in the search.
Read the HCSO release sent out before Cullen's arrest below:
On Nov. 12, 2019, at about 2:05 p.m., Humboldt County Sheriff’s deputies on patrol in the Garberville area attempted a routine traffic stop on Sprowel Creek Road for a vehicle code violation. The vehicle was also known by deputies to be associated with wanted felony warrant subject Robert Joseph Cullen.

The driver of the vehicle, 55-year-old Gregory Michael Benson, failed to yield and a pursuit ensued. The pursuit continued on to Old Briceland Road. During the pursuit, the suspect vehicle collided with a county-owned dump truck near the 2600 block of Old Briceland Road.

Following the collision, two males and one female fled from the scene on foot. The female, 18-year-old Gabrielle Marie Jensen, was quickly apprehended by deputies. During a search of Jensen’s belongings, deputies located drug paraphernalia and narcotics. Deputies initiated a ground search for the two males, one of which was confirmed to be Cullen. A California Highway Patrol aircraft and a Fish and Wildlife K9 Unit assisted in the search. During this search, deputies located Benson.

During a search of Benson’s vehicle, deputies located suspected methamphetamine and heroin. Benson was arrested and booked into the Humboldt County Correctional Facility on charges of evading a peace officer, being armed with a firearm in commission of a felony, resisting a peace officer, possession of a controlled substance and possession of narcotics.

Jensen was booked into the Humboldt County Correctional Facility on charges of resisting a peace officer, possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia. The search for Cullen was later suspended due to nightfall. Cullen is still outstanding at this time. He is described as a white male adult, 30 years old, approximately 6 feet 2 inches tall, 150 pounds, with brown hair and blue eyes. Cullen was last seen wearing a gray sweatshirt, tan beanie, blue jeans and white shoes. If you see Cullen, do not approach him, but call 9-1-1. Anyone with information regarding Cullen’s whereabouts should contact the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office at 707-445-7251 or the Sheriff’s Office Crime Tip line at 707-268-2539.

Editor's note: This story was updated to reflected information from HCSO on Cullen's last known location.
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Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Sneaker Wave Threat Comes on Heels of Trinidad Rescue

Posted By on Tue, Nov 12, 2019 at 2:07 PM

sneakerwave.png
The National Weather Service office in Eureka is warning of an increased risk of sneaker waves Thursday and Friday, a threat that comes on the heels of four teenage surfers — including one who is a state parks lifeguard — rescuing two swimmers off the shore of Trinidad State Beach yesterday.

According to the weather service, a “building large, long period west to northwest swell” will bring the possibility of the waves that can suddenly sweep up a beach, with the potential of taking beachgoers into the water.

“Remember to never turn your back on the ocean,” the notice states.

The swell will also “spread through the waters on Friday and Saturday, resulting in steep and hazardous seas for small craft,” according to NWS.

The deadly combination of cool waters and a rip current nearly took the lives of a 15 year old and a 20 year old visiting from Shasta County on Monday when they were rescued.

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SECOND UPDATE: Teen Surfers Rescue Two Swept Out by Rip in Trinidad

Posted By on Tue, Nov 12, 2019 at 12:39 PM

Four teenage surfers came to the rescue of a 15 year old and 20 year old who were in severe distress Nov. 11 after being swept out by a rip current off Trinidad State Beach.

According to Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Samantha Karges, a call came in around 1:30 p.m. reporting that the swimmers, both from Shasta County, were in trouble.

The surfers — off-duty California State Parks lifeguard Adrian York and Spenser Stratton, Taj Ortiz-Beck and Narayan Weibel, two of whom were junior lifeguard participants — were able to put the swimmers on their boards and bring them safely to shore in teams of two.
Spenser Stratton, Taj Ortiz-Beck and Adrian York. - COURTESY OF EVA YORK
  • Courtesy of Eva York
  • Spenser Stratton, Taj Ortiz-Beck and Adrian York.
At 16, York just made the minimum age cutoff to become a lifeguard and was recently certified after undergoing rigorous training with five others from the North Coast down in Huntington Beach.

“We’re are very proud,” says Keven Harden, a supervising ranger at Patrick’s Point State Park who oversees the junior lifeguard program. “To see this ending. . .. This was our vision of the program.”

York, he says, swam back to shore to make sure 911 was called before heading back out to swimmers.
Narayan Weibel and Adrian York. - COURTESY OF EVA YORK
  • Courtesy of Eva York
  • Narayan Weibel and Adrian York.
Harder says the water was around 50 degrees that day, making extremely difficult even for the best of swimmers without the right gear.

“That takes the fight right out of you,” he says, adding that he was among the first responders, arriving at the scene within six minutes of the 911 call. “We were relieved to see our own kids were there already having made the rescue.”

Harder says he talked with one of the swimmers afterward, who said he was barely able to keep his mouth above water when the teens arrived on their boards.

“They were very close (to not making it),” he says.

He and Karges noted that dangerous water conditions can occur at any time.

“If it were not for these heroic surfers, this event may have ended tragically,” she wrote in an email to the Journal.

Antonio Llanos, who was at the beach with his daughter, says he called 911 after hearing shouts for help coming from the water at the same time as the surfers began heading out to the distressed pair of teenagers, who were about 50 feet offshore and out past the breakers.

Llanos says the surfers were out by Trinidad Head and had to paddle several hundred yards to reach them.

“They were definitely struggling to get in and they were not getting in, but the fog made it really hard to see what was going on,” he says.

Llanos says another person who was on the beach donned a wetsuit and also headed out to the teens, who were dressed in shorts and T-shirts not meant for the cold temperatures of the North Coast’s water.

While he spoke with a dispatcher, who stayed on the line with him, Llanos watched the rescue unfold, noting he called 911 right away because he knew time was of the essence in these cases.

First responders arrived on scene soon after the four surfers brought the teens safely back to shore.

“Everyone was giving each other hugs but they definitely looked shook up and happy to be on dry land,” Llanos says.

Moments like that show how important programs like the junior lifeguard can be and Llanos says he’s thankful he witnessed a happy ending rather than a tragic event.

“They definitely deserve some recognition because that was an amazing rescue and they definitely saved those kids lives,” Llanos says.
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County Sends Nearly 500 Cannabis Warning Letters

Posted By on Tue, Nov 12, 2019 at 10:28 AM

Last week, Humboldt County’s Commercial Cannabis Cultivation unit at Code Enforcement sent out about 470 warning letters to residents suspected of unpermitted cultivation activity.

As a result, consultants who help farmers through the permit process say they received multiple calls from panicky growers, with one saying in exasperation that the county has “carpet-bombed our community again.”

For his part, Humboldt County’s Planning Director John Ford, who oversees the program, describes the letters as a response to two community meetings in Southern Humboldt during which people asked for the courtesy of a warning letter before they received an abatement notice, potentially costing them tens of thousands of dollars a day in fines. Ford says these are those courtesy warning letters.
The county is sending out warning letters to cannabis growers. - FILE
  • File
  • The county is sending out warning letters to cannabis growers.

To some though, the letters signal the end to a way of life, not only for them but for their communities. As one farmer who received a warning letter for his 30 plants of cultivation explained, his family may have to leave the area. His kids go to a very small school with eight students. “When they leave, that school may close and the remaining kids may get bused out each day,” he told us.

The letters note that the county has observed activity they believe is cannabis cultivation. Ford says the letters are a request for a response. He said, “If it isn’t [marijuana cultivation,] contact us and tell us that. If it is, the county expects it to stop or [for the farmer to] get a permit and become legal.”

The letters in part read,
“You are receiving this letter as a courtesy to inform you of what appears to have been an unpermitted commercial cannabis cultivation operation on your parcel. A county land use permit and a state license are both required to legally cultivate cannabis in Humboldt County, and our records indicate that neither exist for this property.

While the overall cultivation area appears to be relatively small, it still requires an appropriate permit.

At this time you are not receiving a Notice to Abate Nuisance or a Notice of Violation …. but your attention and action are required.

You are encouraged to take one of the following corrective actions.

1. Cease the cultivation operation and remove any unpermitted structures related to the cannabis cultivation. For any unpermitted grading, apply for and obtain an after-the-fact grading permit to restore natural or preexisting grades.

2. Should your goal be to commercially cultivate cannabis, cease all cultivation, apply for and receive the required permits and licenses to cultivate cannabis before you commence any future cultivation.

For cultivation that existed prior to December 31, 2015, there is still an opportunity before the end of the calendar year to apply for a “pre-existing” cultivation permit.

It is a violation of County Code to cultivate cannabis without a permit. Code Enforcement staff will continue to monitor your property to confirm the cannabis operation footprint has been eliminated and that it does not appear in the 2020 cultivation season.

If unpermitted cannabis operation persists or reappear in 2020, you will receive a Notice to Abate and a Notice of Violation for an unpermitted activity.

At this time there is no obligation or requirement to contact Code Enforcement staff to discuss this issue or any potential violations of County Code.

If you have questions…you may contact the County Planning Department … .”

Ford said Code Enforcement was directed for the 2019 season to only send Notices of Intent to Abate to sites where the cultivation appeared to be using more than 6,000 square feet. He said these warning letters are for landowners with the smallest grow sites.


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