Planning commission delays decision on commercial cannabis application

| May 13, 2018 | 0 Comments

MARTINEZ, Calif. – Martinez Planning Commission agreed Tuesday with a city staff recommendation to delay deciding whether to recommend the City Council approve an application for a medicinal marijuana dispensary.

Originally, Contract Planner Cindy Gnos and Community and Economic Development Director Christina Ratcliffe had suggested the Commission recommend approving the conditional use permit and an associated development agreement to put the dispensary in a multi-tenant building at 4808 Sunrise Dr.

But that was before Tuesday night, when they learned that an existing building tenant, Mike Neal Jr.’s Power Endurance Training Center, was used by children as well as adults.

Ratcliffe and City Attorney Jeff Walter requested more time to study state and local laws.

By law, dispensaries can’t be any closer than 1,000 feet, as measured by direct vehicular or pedestrian access, from parks, elementary or secondary schools, child daycare centers or churches that have elementary or secondary schools or child daycare centers, and must be 300 feet from property used as homes.

While Neal’s gym isn’t a school or child care center, it often has children as clients, and some of them are dropped off by their parents. He said his clients use the gym to improve the lives of those youth, and he worried that having a cannabis dispensary next door could send confusing messages.

He is in his first year of a five year contract for his space with the building’s owner, Stephen and Shelley Glaser. “I’m a little bit upset about it,” he said.

He and other trainers at Power Endurance Training Center said it is more than a gym, it’s a community where parents feel it is safe to leave their children not only to work out but to get tutoring so they can qualify for school sports, he said.

Devon Tracy said she is a track and field coach of students at De La Salle and Carondelet high schools in Concord. She said she had been planning a girls’ athletic camp at Power Endurance.

When the schools learned a cannabis dispensary might be going into the same building, representatives told her she couldn’t have her camp and the students couldn’t attend.

“This affects me, my business and the girls I hope to empower,” she said.

She said Los Angeles Times’s reports indicated dispensaries have negative impacts, and she said she was concerned for her own safety when she goes to the gym herself.

Opponents also said the site needs more parking should the new business open; at times, the existing spaces are nearly full.

Laurie Light, who favors the dispensary’s opening, said she represented the type of client who would patronize the business.

“Cannabis users aren’t creepy people. They are people like me,” she said, explaining that clients are those in need who must drive to Oakland or elsewhere to obtain the drug, and would rather have local access.

“It’s a secure facility run professionally,” she said.

While specific security systems will not be made public, the applicant has said clients would check in one at a time and go through locked doors to obtain the products. Security guards would be at the entrance and the exit.

The proposed development agreement forbids product use on the premises, and Martinez Police Commander Eric Ghisletta said smoking of marijuana is restricted similarly to alcohol consumption.

Jane Pitts praised the Glasers for working with the applicant, Farid Harrison and Firefly Health Corporation.

Citing Tracy’s intention to empower girls through sports, Pitts said the empowerment should include education. “This is akin to a pharmacy,” she said. “No one wants children to have prescription drugs they shouldn’t have. The way you combat stereotypes is through education.”

Corey Simon, formerly the city’s senior planner, said dispensaries are stores, and the Firefly dispensary should need to provide 10 off-street parking places rather than six dedicated spots and access to unallocated spaces.

But he also agreed with opponents, saying state legislation agreed that cannabis and children “are not a good combination.” He said the gym is a “youth oriented” business, and said the dispensary “is not compatible with a youth sports center.”

He said business parks with multiple tenants, commercial districts and places where parking is not a problem are areas where dispensaries do well.

While the public addressed the Commission, Ratcliffe and Walter were examining the various codes that regulate where dispensaries are allowed, since they were not aware of the gym’s youthful clientele.

They asked the Commission to continue the topic to a future meeting to give them additional time to research the matter.

Commissioner Kimberly Glover said she was glad to hear the staff’s request for a delay.

“You have responsible people who have done their due diligence,” she said. California voters have authorized both medicinal and recreational use of marijuana, she said. “The community has been asking for this.”

On the other hand, she also understood the concerns of a business owner whose gym caters to children as well as adults. “Physical training, sports and athletics for kids is important,” she said.

“This application has been going on for a long time,” and a week or two additional wait for the Planning Commission’s recommendation should cause no harm, Commissioner Sean Trambley said.

He said he also preferred waiting, “to get to the right decision.”

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