Marijuana has dominated the race for the District 2 seat on the Nevada County Board of Supervisors.
There’s a sharp difference in the opinions of Richard Harris and Supervisor Ed Scofield, both of whom are running for the nonpartisan seat. Harris, a political newcomer, is a strong opponent of Measure W, the June 7 initiative that if passed would implement an outdoor medical marijuana grow ban and limit indoor grows to 12 plants. Scofield, running for his third term, voted in favor of the existing supervisor-imposed ban and of placing it on the ballot.
Other issues jockey for space in the District 2 election — Dollar General, development and homelessness. None, though, come close to the attention marijuana has cultivated among voters.
“This is a one-issue campaign,” Scofield said, adding moments later, “Do you want to be a pot county or do you want to control it?
Harris said he would have opposed the board’s Jan. 12 action that implemented the existing supervisor prohibition on outdoor grows and put Measure W on the ballot. He argued that regulating marijuana grows would make law enforcement’s job easier. Growers would have licenses, and the police would know grow locations.
“I would have wanted to work with the constituents,” Harris said. “I would want to license. I would want to have fees pay for the licensing.”
Harris disputes the argument that forcing grows indoors would reduce the smell. Instead, he said people would smell marijuana year-round.
Additionally, pushing grows inside would lead to more house fires like the April 25 one in Alta Sierra that officials have linked to a butane honey oil lab.
“The Board of Supervisors has said they’ll look at it again if Measure W fails,” Harris said. “Why aren’t we doing that now?”
According to Scofield, opinions on marijuana in Nevada County are too disparate for a compromise on regulation. He said his Jan. 12 vote reflected the wishes of his constituents.
“Here’s one of the reasons for the vote: I think we are listening to our constituents,” Scofield said. “There are a lot of people that are afraid.”
Scofield disagreed with previous comments made by Supervisor Dan Miller about the reason for Measure W. Miller has said he feared a future board would overturn a supervisor-imposed ban, necessitating one implemented by voters. Only another vote could overturn the latter.
Scofield said the June 7 vote is an opportunity for the voters to decide the marijuana issue.
“We’re so far apart right now, that’s why I think the ban is necessary,” Scofield said. “It’s just going to go on and on and just get worse.”
A proposal by Dollar General to build three new stores in the county, one of them in Alta Sierra, led a contingent of opponents to lobby the county’s Planning Commission against the project.
Scofield knows many people are opposed to the new store, though he noted the area is properly zoned for it.
Residents’ input is important. It led to project changes that Scofield said will result in a project with improved aesthetics, traffic and sewage.
Ultimately, supervisors have little power to stop a project if it meets legal requirements, Scofield said. Attempting to stymie such a project could lead to a lawsuit.
Harris argues there’s no room for large delivery trucks at the 10166 Alta Sierra Drive project site, adding people didn’t move to the area for access to big box stores.
“I like mom-and-pop stores,” Harris said. “That’s how this county was built.”
Harris said he’d form a committee to examine how to bring smaller businesses to the county, suggesting tax credits might be one method to lure them here. He wants local government to attract business, not be a hindrance to them.
Scofield said he favors industry like the Green Screen Institute, an Economic Resource Council initiative focused on making the county a technological hub for the virtual reality and augmented reality markets.
More development means the county must have more housing, Scofield said. Some new developments exist, though Scofield said they’re not low-income housing.
“The county doesn’t have dollars to put into those types of programs,” Scofield said of housing.
Housing is regularly mentioned as a need for the county’s homeless population, as are mental health and drug addiction programs.
Harris said the county must do a better job of informing homeless people about the programs it does have available.
“It’s a huge fire issue,” he said. “It just does nothing but tax the fire departments.”
A recent fire off Sutton Way in Grass Valley began in a homeless encampment. Nearby residents said fires break out regularly in the woods.
According to Scofield, the county has made inroads on homelessness. It receives federal and state dollars that support the county’s mental health and housing efforts.
It’s the housing that remains a looming issue for Scofield. He said his first priority as a supervisor is the county’s fiscal health. His second is homelessness.
Scofield said the local Continuum of Care, composed of agencies that provide services to the homeless, is key to any solution.
“Everyone is facing this issue,” Scofield said.
Harris said his biggest priorities include the Visually Important Ridgeline lawsuit. The case over a Penn Valley couple that wants to build a garage/office on their property has led to a years-long court battle and steep attorney bills on both sides.
“There’s the money to fix the bridge,” Harris said, referring to $2.6 million needed for the Bridgeport Covered Bridge project.
Harris raised more than Scofield in campaign contributions in the first four months of the year. Harris garnered $5,919.11, which includes over $2,000 in non-monetary contributions.
Scofield raised $1,650. He had a starting cash balance of $1,400, giving him a total of $3,050.
Harris said at first he didn’t realize the supervisor was a paying position. He formally declared for office on the last possible day.
“I got tired of the complacency on the board,” he said.
Harris argued supervisors should perform due diligence before making decisions, pointing to their decision to implement the current outdoor grow ban and put the issue to the voters next month.
“That’s not what they were elected to do,” Harris said.
Scofield said helping constituents, which often happens on a one-on-one basis, is rewarding work. It’s one of the reasons he opted to run again.
“When you can sit them down and have things work out and you’re the guy who put it together, that’s a real high,” Scofield said. “It really is.”
Scofield also wants to maintain the county’s rural quality of life. To him, that’s enjoying the colors and atmosphere of an autumn day while sitting on his deck.
Once more returning to the subject of marijuana, Scofield said that quality of life could disappear if outdoor grows are allowed.
To contact Staff Writer Alan Riquelmy, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4239.