News

Stanislaus County to keep marijuana businesses away from parks. Other rules could be approved Tuesday.

Stanislaus County leaders could impose a 600-foot buffer between marijuana businesses and parks.

But officials are still debating the proper setbacks so that commercial marijuana activities are not an annoyance to homeowners.

County supervisors could approve local regulations for the cannabis industry following a 9 a.m. hearing Tuesday. The detailed set of rules, including odor controls, property setbacks, security measures, sign restrictions, zoning regulations and record-keeping requirements, would apply in the county unincorporated areas.

In the new era of legalization in California, Stanislaus County plans to issue no more than 61 marijuana business permits in unincorporated areas and will limit retail permits to no more than seven, though some think the county is being too generous with the cannabis industry.

Last month, the county Planning Commission made a strong recommendation for a 600-foot buffer so that cannabis activities are nowhere near young people in parks.

County staff members endorsed the recommendation in a report for Tuesday’s hearing, but were cooler to a proposal to keep marijuana businesses at least 600 feet away from homes.

A 600-foot buffer between homes and commercial cannabis would eliminate all but four of the 31 prospective applications for retail shops, and could greatly restrict where other cannabis operations could locate, the staff report says. Aside from retail stores selling weed, the county has initial applications for commercial greenhouses, facilities for making cannabis products, distribution and testing labs.

In a change to the proposed ordinance, municipal advisory councils in south Modesto, Salida, Denair and other communities would review any permit applications within their boundaries and provide advice to the Board of Supervisors. That would provide flexibility in considering the location of cannabis operations while allowing community members and the public to raise their concerns, the report says.

At the Planning Commission hearing Nov. 16, the county was criticized for a proposed waiver that would allow a greenhouse within 50 feet of a rural home if a wall was erected to block the pungent odor of large marijuana plants. The waiver and a 200-foot residential setback remain in the proposed ordinance.

The county also will give decision-making power to Turlock, Hughson, Newman and Waterford over cannabis permit applications within the cities’ designated expansion boundaries and a half mile outside those boundaries. County officials want to respect the decision of the four cities to ban commercial cannabis.

County planning commissioners also wanted to restrict dispensaries to industrial areas and not allow them in commercial zones. That restriction is not recommended by county staff. The county has nine requests for marijuana retail outlets in areas zoned for commercial businesses, including four in south Modesto, one near Salida, two in Empire, one near Denair and one in Crows Landing.

According to the staff report, the applications for the retail shops will be vetted and then reviewed at public hearings. The approval process should ensure the dispensaries are compatible with the surrounding neighborhoods, the report says.

Vito Chiesa, Board of Supervisors chairman, said he wants to see more mapping of permit requests before the board decides on setbacks and where to allow cannabis businesses.

County supervisors could also approve a $8,500 base processing fee on cannabis business applications. The county aims to recoup the costs of reviewing and ranking the permit applications and conducting background investigations and security plan inspections. Applicants could ultimately pay more than $11,500 in fees, depending on the number of background checks needed for the business and property owners.

There is no guarantee that applicants paying the fees will receive one of the 61 cannabis business permits.

The $4,359 deposits paid by 117 people who registered during an initial application window in October will be applied to the processing fee. Those who follow through with a cannabis business permit application will face a five- to six-month wait as their land-use proposals and development agreements are reviewed.

Once the permitted businesses are up and running, the county hopes to collect at least $4 million in annual fees on marijuana sales and indoor cultivation, which is supposed to fund local enforcement and regulation of the marijuana industry.

County officials have discussed possible revenue-sharing and harmonized tax rates with the city of Modesto, which is one of the five cities in the county that plans to permit and tax commercial cannabis. Chiesa said counties throughout the state are wrestling with regulation of the cannabis industry since marijuana was legalized by Proposition 64 a year ago.

The trick is making allowances for some commercial activity, Chiesa said, while avoiding the kind of backlash in Calaveras County, which initially fostered a “green rush” of marijuana farms and now has reversed course.

The Board of Supervisors will meet Tuesday at 9 a.m. in the basement chamber of Tenth Street Place, at 1010 10th St., Modesto.

  Comments