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Stanislaus supervisors are asked to keep cannabis shop in Empire. It’s near homes.

General manager Doug Mutoza shows the delivery room at at Empire Health and Wellness dispensary in Empire, Calif., on Friday, September 7, 2018.
General manager Doug Mutoza shows the delivery room at at Empire Health and Wellness dispensary in Empire, Calif., on Friday, September 7, 2018. aalfaro@modbee.com

A cannabis retail outlet in eastern Stanislaus County will need to overcome a county Planning Commission denial to stay in business.

Stanislaus County supervisors on Tuesday will consider a development agreement for Empire Health and Wellness to operate a cannabis retail shop and delivery service on Highway 132, east of Modesto.

Empire Wellness failed to get a majority vote from planning commissioners Aug. 15 to approve its permit application. According to rules, that constituted a recommendation of denial to the Board of Supervisors.

The applicants are asking the Board of Supervisors to waive a county setback that requires a 200-foot separation between a cannabis shop and homes. A dozen dwellings are within 200 feet of Empire Wellness, at 4725 Yosemite Blvd. (Highway 132).

County supervisors have approved exceptions to the residential setback six times in industrial areas, agriculture zones and where commercial areas abut a residential neighborhood.

Tim Mayfield, who supports the permit, said in an April letter the town of Empire had three dispensaries before marijuana was legalized statewide in late 2016. Empire Wellness is the only shop that cleared a review process to qualify for a county permit, Mayfield wrote.

County Public Works and the state Department of Transportation say the Empire shop is within an area marked for improvements along Highway 132. Public Works wants the business to dedicate some frontage property.

If county leaders approve the permit Tuesday, Empire Wellness is expected to pay community benefit fees up to $500,000 over five years, though it could be less. The fee revenue is intended for charities, public improvements and enforcement of local cannabis regulations.

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

Ken Carlson covers county government and health care for The Modesto Bee. His coverage of public health, medicine, consumer health issues and the business of health care has appeared in The Bee for 15 years.
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