Turlock looks to approve cannabis dispensaries, considers cuts to public safety

The Turlock City Council will consider giving its final approval Tuesday to an ordinance establishing a cannabis business pilot program, which would allow within the city as many as four dispensaries, as well as other types of cannabis businesses, including manufacturers and cultivators.

The meeting agenda also states the council will consider adopting Turlock’s 2019-20 budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1. The proposed budget calls for reductions to balance the roughly $40 million general fund, which primarily pays for public safety.

Those reductions include less money for Police and Fire department overtime, as well as not filling three emergency dispatch positions, one police officer position, two firefighter positions and one fire division chief position. These positions are vacant now or will become vacant as of June 30.

This will impact public safety, including closing one of the city’s four fire stations about a third of the time. A city budget document states Turlock has operated four fire stations since 1993.

But city officials say other departments that use general fund dollars, including parks and recreation, also are facing cutbacks. Turlock finds itself in this position after the previous City Council lived beyond its means by approving spending that drew down general fund reserves.

Turlock also is in negotiations with its labor groups, so it is possible that concessions could improve the general fund budget.

Before its regular meeting, the council will hold a workshop on the proposed budget’s impact on police and fire. The workshop is expected to start about 2:45 p.m., and the regular meeting starts at 6 p.m. Both will be in the Yosemite Room at City Hall, 156 S. Broadway.

The commercial cannabis ordinance allows for dispensaries, cultivators, manufacturers, testing labs and distributors.

The city’s safeguards include requiring businesses to be at least 600 feet away from schools, day care centers and youth facilities. The city will decide on a case-by-case basis how far these businesses need to be from what it calls other sensitive uses, including homes and churches. Dispensaries will be required to have state-licensed security guards.

If the council gives it final approval to the pilot program, the city would allow cannabis businesses by reaching development agreements with them, which can include how much these businesses would pay the city in taxes. A city report states Turlock also would issue what is called a conditional use permit, which typically allows for public input, in allowing a business to operate.

City reports for Tuesday’s meeting do not state how much revenue Turlock expects to receive from these businesses.

The council voted 3-2 to allow these businesses at its May 14 meeting and then by another 3-2 vote at its May 28 meeting. City officials tweaked the proposed ordinance May 28 after several speakers associated with cannabis businesses said the city’s requiring cannabis businesses to be at least 1,000 feet from schools, day cares, churches and homes was too onerous.

The tweak requires the council’s second and final approval Tuesday.

The City Council also will consider allowing the city to solicit what is called a request for qualifications from companies interested in setting up business in Turlock. The city would charge a $5,500 nonrefundable application fee to cover its costs of evaluating each application.

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