Planning Commission sends recommendation for cannabis ordinance to City Council

MARTINEZ, Calif. – Martinez Planning Commission decided Tuesday it likes most of the provisions of a proposed commercial cannabis ordinance, but suggested allowing an additional delivery service among those the city would allow to operate within its limits.

City staff has recommended two retail, or dispensary, cannabis businesses, and has suggested they’d be suitable additions in neighborhood commercial, community commercial, service commercial and thoroughfare commercial districts, said Christina Ratcliffe, director of community and economic development.

Manufacturing is defined as production, preparation, propagation or compounding marijuana or its products, and staff has recommended the city limit that type of business to one, putting it in light, heavy or controlled industrial zones, Ratcliffe said.

One distribution business could be placed in those same three industrial zones, she said.

Staff has recommended limiting testing laboratories to one as well, she said. This type of business would test marijuana or marijuana products, and are suggested for the three industrial zones.

There are two types of delivery businesses, Ratcliffe said. One would be associated with a retail storefront, and staff is recommending the city allow two to operate in the appropriate commercial zones.

An unlimited number of delivery services from outside the city, although those would be subject to permission by the chief of police, according to the ordinance proposals.

The ordinance would define schools as public, private or charter schools providing education to grades from preschool through 12th grades. Youth centers would be public or private entities exclusively used for recreational or social activities for minors.

Schools, youth centers and state licensed commercial daycare centers would be classified as “sensitive receptors,” and any cannabis business would need to be at least 600 feet from those in existence when the business’s licensing is approved.

City Planner Margaret Kavanaugh-Lynch explained that the city would seek applications by “highly qualified” operators of the various types of business, which would submit proposals for evaluation and review by Martinez Police, the Finance Department, Community and Economic Development and representatives of the city’s consultant, HdL.

Applications recommended for approval by that group would be sent to the City Council. Applicants who weren’t recommended could appeal that status to the Council as well.

Those meeting the Council’s approval would receive conditional certificates, which would allow the businesses to proceed with the planning, building and California Environmental Quality Act processes, Kavanaugh-Lynch said. While that process would have a year’s term to be complete for the business to receive a commercial cannabis operating permit, extensions could be requested and given on a case-by-case basis, she said.

“We want to move it along and get these businesses open,” she said.

Responding to Commissioners’ questions, HdL Senior Advisor Tim Cromartie said the “broad stroke” provisions of the ordinance are similar to those used in other cities, but refinements were tailored specifically for Martinez.

Screening applicants and vetting prospective businesses are going smoothly in the other cities, he said.

Matthew Harbans, who said his business, Bay Area Flavors, is seeking a place to open so it can obtain state licensing, asked the Commission to consider adding one additional delivery service to the number of businesses under consideration.

Commissioner Sean Trambley’s motion added that recommendation to the Council.

Meanwhile, Matt Light and Farid Harrison, who have applied for their company, Firefly, to open a dispensary in Martinez, sought assurance that their application wouldn’t be sent back to square one by the ordinance.

They are seeking to open in a multi-tenant building at 4808 Sunset Drive, but a decision on the application has been delayed while the city struggled to define “youth center.”

Next to the suite where Light and Harrison want to open their business is Power Endurance Training Center, which Mike Neal Jr. had contended was a youth center, since much of his clientele are minors.

Consideration of the Firefly application was put on hold until the definition could be determined and adopted through the city’s commercial cannabis ordinance.

Ratcliffe said she had no answer Tuesday night, but said city staff is talking with both HdL and its legal department. “Firefly has put a lot of time and effort, and staff has put in a lot of time and effort on the application,” she acknowledged.

Retired Planner Corey Simon said the staff proposal “solves a lot of problems,” but the city should look at impacts to surrounding areas. Shopping centers on Arnold Drive and commercial areas along Alhambra Avenue should be considered as places for some cannabis businesses because “all these areas have built-in buffers.”

The recommendation next will be reviewed by the City Council at a future meeting.

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