A couple of Deschutes County residents are attempting to establish a marijuana grow on a property that houses rescued and retired horses, but several neighbors have concerns.

On Wednesday, the Deschutes County Commission heard arguments for and against an application to develop an indoor marijuana grow on part of an approximately 10-acre parcel at 20420 Harper Road, near the Cline Buttes Recreation Area between Bend and Redmond. During the hearing, neighbors opposed to the application expressed concern about a variety of topics, including the property’s access to water outside of irrigation season and its proximity to several popular recreation areas managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

“There are multiple problems with this application,” said Ed Fitch, an attorney representing Annunziata “Nunzie” Gould, who filed an appeal of Deschutes County staff’s decision to approve the application in November.

Earlier this year, Chris and Lucinda Baker, the owners of 20420 Harper Road, filed an application to convert around 1,060 square feet of an existing building on their property into an area to grow marijuana, with a mature plant canopy of 325 square feet. The application calls for a security system that will cost around $23,000, as well as carbon filters to suppress odors from the grow, according to Chris Baker.

During the hearing, the Bakers described the proposed grow as a way to make extra money to stay on the property and augment the income from BentWire Ranch, where the Bakers maintain a herd of horses on a separate part of their 9.73-acre property.

“We want to lose money as slowly as possible,” Lucinda Baker said during the hearing.

She added that the ranch mainly works with older or rescued horses, though the ranch does offer horseback lessons. The marijuana grow will occupy part of a building near the northern edge of the property, adjacent to the “Dance Hall,” where the Bakers attend to horses during the winter.

Fitch said the property’s use of a water hauling company during the irrigation off-season violates the Oregon Water Resource Department’s rules around municipal water. He also argued that the county’s code prohibits commercial activities related to farm use in conjunction with a marijuana operation.

“If you’re going to have a marijuana operation, that’s what you’re going to have,” he said.

Additionally, Cynthia Smidt, associate planner for Deschutes County, said the Bureau of Land Management submitted a letter expressing concerns about the application, including the possibility of people trespassing onto public lands, and the development’s proximity to popular trails like the Maston trail system.

In the letter sent out to notify neighbors about the development, the Bakers announced their intent to grow hemp on their property if the marijuana application is not approved, which rankled several neighbors at the hearing. Deschutes County resident Dan Hebrard said he interpreted the indication to grow hemp — which has many of the same odor issues as cannabis but fewer legal hurdles — as a threat or an extortion attempt.

“That didn’t sit well with me,” Hebrard said.

Lucinda Baker later apologized for the tone of the letter, saying her intent was not to alienate neighbors.

“I’m not an aggressive person like that,” she said.

The County Commission closed the oral portion of the public record Wednesday, but residents can continue to add new written comments to the official record until 5 p.m. Jan. 3. The applicant and appealing parties have another seven days after that to refute the new comments, and final arguments will be closed the following week, on Jan. 17, according to Smidt.

— Reporter: 541-617-7818, shamway@bendbulletin.com