Jessica Cejnar / Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020 @ 3:35 p.m. / Local Government

DN's 'Troubleshooted' Commercial Cannabis Law Relaxes Setbacks Between Retailers, Opens Smith River Area

Del Norte County approved a troubleshooted commercial cannabis ordinance that relaxes setback zones between one business and another. LoCO File Photo

More than one commercial cannabis operator will be able to do business in Del Norte County's Cannabis Business Combining District.

Changes to the county's commercial cannabis ordinance rectifies an accidental monopoly in the urban area just outside Crescent City limits, Deputy County Counsel Joel Campbell-Blair told supervisors on Tuesday. It also allows for new commercial cannabis operations  in the Smith River area.

The Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 in favor of the changed ordinances. District 1 Supervisor Roger Gitlin dissented.

The changed ordinance reduces the required setback between commercial cannabis retailers from 1,000 feet to 200 feet for businesses on the same street, according to Campbell-Blair. The county’s environmental review committee recommended the 200-foot buffer between retailers, he said.

“The complaint or criticism we got is we accidentally created a monopoly for one business,” Campbell-Blair said, adding that the setbacks made it so whoever was the first retailer to set up shop, in this case Sticky Grove, just outside city limits, was the only business allowed to operate. “Reducing down to 200 (feet) allows other businesses to operate within that space.”

Meanwhile, Campbell-Blair noted that, apart from a 600 foot setback zone around Smith River School at First Street and Beckstead Avenue and Howonquet Head Start near Lucky 7 Casino, there is a lot of space available for commercial cannabis manufacturing.

Campbell-Blair presented the proposed changes to the Board of Supervisors after elected officials in October asked staff to explore reducing setbacks between commercial cannabis retailers and schools from 1,000 feet to 600 feet.

The following month, the Board of Supervisors responded to a complaint that, at roughly 450 feet from juvenile hall, Sticky Grove wasn’t in compliance with the county’s ordinance. Supervisors solved that problem by splitting the parcel that houses the detention center.

On Tuesday, Campbell-Blair said though he wasn’t sure that treating juvenile hall was what California legislators meant when they recommended setbacks from schools, state law doesn’t offer specificity on what is or isn’t a school.

District 3 Supervisor Chris Howard who referred to a school at the Seventh Day Adventist Church on Northcrest Drive without mentioning it specifically asked Campbell-Blair if county counsel had “done anything better” to specify the definition of a school.

Campbell-Blair responded that his office is treating the definition broadly. Those seeking a use permit for a commercial cannabis operation can contest that opinion, he said. Those who operate a school can protest against a commercial cannabis business being located nearby, Campbell-Blair said.

“A school is a school whether it’s accredited or private,” he said. “The only limitations is if it happens inside a residence.”

Gitlin asked Campbell-Blair about the 200-foot setback and if that means a community of stores could be located “within an arm’s throw of each other.”

Campbell-Blair told Gitlin that the 200-foot setback only applies to businesses located on the same street. On a different street, that setback resets, he said.

“Technically they could be 50 feet as the crow flies, but on different streets,” Campbell-Blair told Gitlin. “Our goal wasn’t to create a mini-community, nor was it to space them out too much because we’re working in this little space. It was the direction of the board to expand to allow more businesses to come in.”

Del Norte County’s “troubleshooted” ordinance comes as Crescent City is finalizing its own commercial cannabis ordinance. At its Feb. 3 meeting, the City Council approved 600-foot setbacks from schools and daycare centers for retailers and agreed to set use permit fees by resolution for retailers, manufacturers, processors and cultivators.

The city’s proposed ordinance would also require businesses to obtain a $15,000 surety bond for any law enforcement action and destruction of material produced or processed illegally. The Crescent City Council could do a first reading of the ordinance at its Feb. 18 meeting, adopt it on March 2 and allow it to go into effect April 2.


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