Dry Creek Rancheria Tribe Apply for Cannabis with Sonoma County

The tribal government which agreed last spring to delay its pursuit of a casino in southern Petaluma has found another use for part of its land: cannabis.

The Dry Creek Rancheria Band of Pomo Indians has applied to Sonoma County to grow nearly 1,000 cannabis plants outdoors along the southernmost stretch of Petaluma Boulevard South at the southeast corner. from Highway 101 and Kastania Road.

The proposed operation, which would include large water storage tanks and involve dozens of employee trips per day, would be isolated on a 29-acre portion of the tribe’s 277 acres between Highway 101 and the Petaluma River.

The project has yet to be approved by county planners, but it has garnered positive remarks from area leaders who have long sought to curb casino activity in Sonoma County. Petaluma City Council member Mike Healy said he had questions about the well the tribe plans to use as a water source, but otherwise had few complaints.

“A bigger picture, however, would allow the tribe to get some economic return on their property without a casino,” said Healy, the main board holder.

Phone messages left at tribe headquarters and with a contact listed on the tribe’s app were not returned.

State and local cannabis regulations, as well as federal law, which prohibits the cultivation of marijuana, are unlikely to conflict with issues of tribal sovereignty in this case.

The tribe owns the land, but it has not been officially entrusted as tribal and sovereign land. This means that the same laws apply to tribal property south of Petaluma as to any other unincorporated Sonoma County parcel.

The tribe’s request, filed in early August, came three months after leaders agreed to extend an agreement with the county ensuring that no casinos will be built on the property until December 31, 2032.

In return, the tribe, strapped for cash after shutting down its River Rock Casino in Geyserville for 2.5 months at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, were able to forgo their annual payments of $ 750,000 to the county last year. and this year.

Still, the tribe has the right to establish a second casino in the county, according to a separate agreement with the state of California. The possibility that he would choose to build it in Petaluma has grown ever larger since the Graton Resort & Casino opened in 2013, cutting off Bay Area traffic that might otherwise have continued north to at the Tribe’s River Rock Casino.

In September, the Koi Nation announced plans to build a $ 600 million casino in Windsor, a move that could further reduce gaming revenue at the tribe’s facilities in Geyserville.

The intention of the Dry Creek Band of Pomo Indians to transform nearly 300 acres on the south side of Petaluma into a resort and casino has long been a source of contention. The city was so motivated to oppose the development that it posed the question to voters in 2006. About 80% opposed the idea.

It is not yet clear how much setback this new cannabis proposal will attract, although Sonoma County Supervisor David Rabbitt has said it could be a rare piece of land free of the type neighborhood issues that characterized the cannabis conflict in the rural outskirts of Petaluma.

Plans for the site include a landscaped screen and fencing, no chemical storage, as well as a 100 foot setback from property lines and Petaluma Boulevard South.

“This setback is far enough from the perimeter fence that nothing is visible from Petaluma Boulevard South,” according to the request, which seeks permission to grow 860 plants on the site.

With plans for pine trees and other plants to mask the scent, and downward-facing, motion-sensing lights for security cameras, the tribe has potentially presented a belated solution on what to do. with the property, which is marked just south of Petaluma by a billboard for the tribe’s existing casino in Sonoma County.

“We have worked with the tribe, and we understand and support their need to diversify their portfolio,” said Rabbitt, who represents the southern county, including Petaluma.

Rabbitt said a number of possibilities for the land have been discussed over the years, including a recreation center, restaurants and bars, a campground, a hotel and even a gas station.

“All of them have been offered at some point,” Rabbitt said. “Ideally, we want everything to be in line with our general plan. “

Tyler Silvy is editor-in-chief of the Petaluma Argus-Courier. Contact him at [email protected], 707-776-8458, or @tylersilvy on Twitter.