At its regular June 19 meeting, the San Benito County Planning Commission voted unanimously to approve a development agreement for what is being called the San Benito Hemp Campus. The applicant, Chambers/Pacific Bay Capital Group, plans to reuse what was formerly a produce processing plant on a 75-acre parcel of agriculturally zoned land for hemp cultivation. The agreement now goes before the San Benito County Board of Supervisors.
“Staff really views this project as an adaptive reuse of an underutilized agricultural production facility,” said Principal Planner Taven M. Kinison Brown. “It’s just there—there will virtually be no impacts associated with construction, or building something new, just reusing the building.”
Brown said that as the business grows and becomes successful, the public benefit grows with revenue sharing.
The proposed hemp campus location is south of and adjacent to Frazier Lake Airport. The property is currently being used as an equestrian facility and for storage. The facility would provide for hemp cultivation and hemp-derivative manufacturing and oil extraction. The project includes a proposal to erect 60,000 square feet of hoop greenhouses or more formalized structures to supplement seed production and cultivation. Adjacent properties, not subject to the use permit review, will also be used to grow hemp for cultivation and processing at this facility, according to the meeting agenda.
A few community members voiced concerns during public comment regarding cannabis odors and increased traffic on Lake Road and Frazier Lake Road in proximity to the hemp campus.
“There’s no lighting on the Lake Road side,” said Lou Ravina, a Lake Road resident for the last 10 years. “On the Frazier Lake Road side, there’s plenty of lighting out there, you can see, but there’s no word about developing the road on Lake Road.”
Skip Spiering, who spoke representing the San Benito Hemp Campus, said trucks would be required to come through Frazier Lake Road. Planning commissioner Eduardo Navarro asked about the number of trucks that would come through each day. Spiering said around 20 to 50 a month, with one to two trucks coming in and out of the facility per day.
“We’re trying to stagger both the work shifts and the trucks at times to where the least impact will be on Frazier Lake,” Spiering said.
Lake Road resident David Leonardo echoed Ravina’s concerns about the condition of the road. He said his property is across the street from the proposed hemp campus. He also expressed concern about whether odor from the plants would drift onto his property.
“I listen to KSBW Channel 8 and the communities in Salinas where they’ve opened up marijuana farming, the people said it’s nonstop, the smell of skunk,” he said. “I love the peace, and the quiet and I don’t mind every now and then if I smell a skunk, but it’s a real skunk or alfalfa or hay or whatever. But to smell marijuana 24/7 would be horrible.”
Spiering addressed the odor issue and said the facility would be in good shape because cultivation will take place indoors.
“The odors are confined with a heavy HVAC system that recirculates any of the air that is coming in,” he said.
The hemp campus representative also addressed resident concerns regarding security. Frazier Lake Road will be the primary access point with a guard house and full security around the property, Spiering said.
Additionally, as part of their “handshake with the county,” the hemp campus is going to make its best effort to hire locals first according to Brown.
The loan agreement is scheduled to go before the Board of Supervisors on July 23 with the Planning Commission’s recommendation.