The Ukiah Planning Commission this week denied a waiver that would have allowed a cannabis microbusiness to operate on East Smith Street near a church and mobile home park.
“This is not about debating the merits of marijuana, it’s all about: Is that site an allowable location for a business of that type?” said Commissioner Laura Christensen, referring to three suites of a building located at 270-272-274 E. Smith St. where applicant Jay Donnellan, the owner of Wine Country Cannasseurs, proposed to operate a “cannabis microbusiness consisting of indoor cultivation, distribution, and retail.”
However, a church occupies the other two suites in the building, and Craig Schlatter, the city’s director of Community Development, determined that the proximity of both the church and an adjacent mobile home park would not allow a microbusiness to operate on the proposed site if the city’s zoning laws were enforced.
Therefore, “the applicant has requested a waiver from the Limitations of Location for its vicinity to residential uses and a youth-oriented facility,” specifically the Circle Trailer Park and the Iglesia Pentecostal United Church.
As for the church, planning staff determined that if the owner of the cannabis microbusiness closes during the church’s Wednesday evening and Sunday morning services, that “creates a condition which achieves the same purpose and intent as the distance separation requirement from the church, a youth-oriented facility.”
As for the mobile home park, however, planning staff determined that “the fencing between the project area and the mobile home park does not meet the requirement of a non-intervening use, nor does it achieve the same purpose and intent as the distance separation requirement from the parcel containing a primary residential use.”
During Wednesday’s hearing, many members of the audience spoke in favor of the business and of the increased availability of cannabis, while others expressed concern about the potential smells, the proposed business’s proximity to the Ukiah library, and that it might preclude housing from being built on nearby undeveloped parcels.
The owner of Headlines Hair Design, Eloisa Rojas Gonzalez, who currently operates at 270 E. Smith St., told the commission that the approval would also force her to move, and that she had received no notice of the plans to operate another business in her salon until people began measuring inside the building.
“I take offense (at the assertion) that this body hasn’t taken into account the needs of the cannabis community,” commission Chairman Mike Whetzel told the audience, pointing out that the commission has already approved two dispensaries, “one that is up and running,” and that there are delivery services operating here as well.
“There is not a lack of dispensaries in this town, and this is not about the cannabis industry,” he continued. “This is about the location of this dispensary and the rules, regulations and zoning that have been set down by the City Council.”
Commissioner Linda Sanders then made a motion that the waiver request be denied, and the commission approved the motion with a vote of 4-0. (There were only four voting members because earlier in the meeting former Commissioner Christopher Watt announced that he had resigned from the commission).
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