By KAREN VELIE
The election that brought more than 200 residents to the Templeton Area Advisory Group (TAAG) election in the rain on March 2 was certainly extraordinary. And residents who voted for incumbents Chris Cobey and Bruce Jones were certainly voicing their approval of the current TAAG board.
But the election was also a rejection of large marijuana cultivation projects, near residential dwellings, and those in public office promoting those projects.
Prior to the election, in which marijuana industry insiders Jason Kallen, Frances Esters, and Marie Roth ran against four long-time residents, candidates and their supporters advertised through email blasts. The usually quiet election became highly competitive as marijuana business owners and consultants worked to push their agendas.
During the five-hour polling period on March 2, Kallen and Esters campaigned and took photos inside the polling station. There were also reports that marijuana supporters harassed some election volunteers, TAAG members, and voters during the voting.
TAAG election results
Chris Cobey – 177 votes – delegate
Bruce Jones – 158 votes – delegate
Jon DeMorales – 117 votes – delegate
Rock Spurgeon – 78 – votes – first alternate
Marie Roth – 36 – votes – second alternate
Frances Esters – 17 votes
Jason Kallen – 16 votes
“Clearly, Templeton opposes cannabis activities in our area and in the county,” Powell said. “We see these election results as a message to the cannabis industry and to the SLO County Supervisors, that Templeton area cannabis operations that impact our neighborhoods will not be tolerated.”
Templeton neighbors battle over proposed cannabis cultivation
The new TAAG board will face a divided San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors. Both supervisors Adam Hill and Bruce Gibson have voiced support for the county becoming a state leader in the marijuana industry. On the other side, supervisors John Peschong and Debbie Arnold have sided with residents concerned with negative impacts related to large commercial cannabis projects near their homes.
Supervisor Lynn Compton appears to vacillate between supporting the property rights of neighbors and supporting the marijuana industry.
After the SLO County Planning Department approved 3 acres of outdoor cannabis cultivation and multiple indoor grows totaling 22,000 square feet on York Mountain Road, neighbor and restaurateur Ian McPhee filed an appeal of the project partially because county staffers decided the project did not need an environmental impact report (EIR).
Both supervisors Hill and Gibson are opposed to requiring an EIR on the proposed project.
On Feb. 26, the board of supervisors listened to McPhee’s appeal of the proposed marijuana cultivation. While smell, traffic, a lack of an EIR, and water use were the neighbor’s greatest concerns, the most contentious issue raised was about impacts to the view shed from Highway 46 west.
Supporters of the York Mountain Road grow, along with supervisors Hill and Gibson, claimed that the grow could not be seen from Highway 46, which is listed as a suggested scenic corridor. They claimed opponents of the project had manipulated photos in an attempt to deceive the board of supervisors.
One of the photos provided by McPhee was of a Google Earth image of the grow in which vegetation was minimized to make it clear where the grow would be located in relation to Highway 46.
To combat that claim, neighbors provided current photos of the proposed grow site which they said were taken from multiple spots along Highway 46. Peschong, the supervisor for the area, agreed that the proposed project can be seen from Highway 46.
Even so, supervisors Gibson, Hill, and Compton argued McPhee and TAAG had purposely provided manipulated photos to stop the project. Compton then asked the neighbors to negotiate a compromise with the marijuana grower before the board makes a decision.
Both sides then agreed to discuss the issue and come back to the board on March 12.
As a reason to support the marijuana grow, Gibson, Hill, and Compton reminded attendees that Californians had voted overwhelmingly in support of marijuana. Opponents of the York Mountain Road grow argue that voting to legalize marijuana use, was not a vote for the supervisors to overlook the impacts of marijuana businesses on neighbors.