Jessica Cejnar / Thursday, Jan. 23 @ 1:21 p.m. / Local Government
In Latest Commercial Cannabis Discussion, City Council Favors 600 Foot Setback From Schools For Retailers
As they continued to chip away at a commercial cannabis ordinance Tuesday, most Crescent City Councilors agreed on a 600 foot setback from schools for retailers and heightened security measures for any cannabis operation.
This last stipulation came after Councilors Jason Greenough and Mayor Pro Tem Heidi Kime visited cannabis manufacturers and dispensaries in Eureka.
Greenough said he was impressed the businesses’ two-step approach requiring people to be screened before being admitted and wanted to make such a practice a requirement for proprietors wanting to do business in Crescent City.
“If someone gets into that space (security) can verify that the person should actually be there,” Greenough told his colleagues. “If someone breaks into the business through that first door, it’s extra security. It will give people inside an extra amount of time to call for help.”
Greenough, however, continued to call for a 1,000 foot setback from “brick and mortar schools” and a 600 foot setback from youth centers for cannabis retailers. When he stated his preferences at the Council’s Dec. 16 meeting, Greenough’s colleagues asked consultant Garry Rees to find out if the Del Norte County Fairgrounds, the Del Norte Child Care Council and Coastal Connections, a county-run program, were considered youth centers.
On Tuesday, Rees, a planner with Eureka-based SHN who is tasked with helping the city craft its ordinance, said since Coastal Connections, on K Street, serves individuals from 14-25, it could fall under the criteria of a youth center.
The Child Care Council, also on K Street, offers supervised visitation, but may not meet the state’s definition of sensitive land uses, Rees said.
In California government code regarding cannabis uses, the state recommends 600 foot setbacks from “certain sensitive land uses,” Rees said. But local jurisdictions can reduce setback requirements and allow for exceptions in most uses, he said.
These apply to uses the California Bureau of Cannabis Control regulates including retailers, testing laboratories, micro businesses and temporary cannabis events, Rees said.
“When we met with folks in Eureka, they noted that they don’t recommend setbacks for manufacturing and testing laboratories,” he told the Council. “They don’t have the impacts a dispensary would.”
Rees told Councilors local jurisdictions could also establish a criteria for allowing exceptions to cannabis uses and setbacks on a case by case basis. Most Councilors were amenable to this, and directed staff to create a criteria for possible incorporation into its commercial cannabis ordinance.
During their discussion, Mayor Blake Inscore said he felt a 600 foot setback was sufficient for retail, but he didn’t think there was a need to establish a setback for cannabis manufacturing and testing laboratories if the business doesn’t sell the product.
Inscore and his colleague, Councilor Alex Fallman said the fairgrounds shouldn’t be included as a sensitive land use since the youth activities are adult supervised.
Kime noted that venues for daycare centers and youth programs are more fluid than schools, pointing out that the county has moved many of its programs to different locations.
Kime said she also liked how the cannabis business she visited in Eureka approached advertising and signage at their facility.
“They were advertising their neighbor’s business three doors down,” she said. “It had ‘Furniture and Mattress’ business on the side. When you drive by, you wouldn’t know what its use is.”
When it comes to advertising and signs, City Attorney Martha Rice said when it comes to retail, there are state regulations on where signs can be. According to state regulations, for example, advertising for cannabis products can’t be within 1,000 feet of a day care center, school, playground or youth center.
Local jurisdictions can also require that a cannabis retailer allow for viewable space into the business from the street, Rice said. This, she said, came about due to the amount of burglaries alcohol retailers reported.
However, Rice said, local jurisdictions can’t regulate the content of signs or advertising for retailers.
“According to the Supreme Court, more information is better for the consumer no matter if it’s tacky or tasteless or obnoxious,” she said. “When it comes to retail, whatever regulations apply to everybody, whether it’s sandwich boards, flat signs, would apply here also. Generally, the retail, those storefronts, are treated like everybody else.”
Rees and Crescent City Public Works Director Jon Olson presented a draft commercial cannabis ordinance to the City Council on Nov. 18. The ordinance calls for allowing cannabis use in the city’s general commercial, waterfront commercial, downtown business district and highway district zones.
The proposed ordinance allows indoor cultivation of no more than 2,000 square feet, storefront retail, non-storefront retail, processing facilities, micro businesses and testing laboratories.
The proposed law also carries odor restrictions for cannabis businesses. According to Inscore, the ordinance requires the odor from a business not go past its property line.
At its Dec. 16 meeting, the City Council stated they did not want to allow on-site cannabis consumption or drive-through retail within city limits.
On Tuesday, Rees also recommended requiring requiring cannabis proprietors obtain an industrial wastewater discharge permit from the city.
Rees told Councilors that he would also return with a revised map on how the proposed changes would affect where cannabis operations can be located within city limits.
Inscore noted that the ordinance requires cannabis business proprietors to obtain a use permit from the city Planning Commission, which has an appeals process and must allow for surrounding property owners to weigh in at a public meeting.
“We’ve got to start normalizing how we view these businesses,” he said. “It’s a legal enterprise and, entrepreneurs or big corporations, it doesn’t matter, they should be treated like otehr comparable businesses that may have restrictions.”
Del Norte County currently requires a 1,000 foot setback from schools for cannabis retailers. The county also requires 1,000 foot setbacks from one cannabis retailer to another.
According to Rees, county staff are looking at reducing the setback between retailers and schools from 1,000 feet to 600 feet. County staff are also researching the possibility of reducing the setback between retailers from 1,000 feet to 200 feet, Rees said.
Though the Del Norte County Planning Commission did not recommend decreasing the setback requirements, Rees said planning staff feel “it will probably go through.”