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Permit for cannabis dispensary on East Smith Street approved – Ukiah Daily Journal

In a less-than-enthusiastic ruling, the Ukiah Planning Commission this week approved a permit for a proposed cannabis dispensary that will include cultivation in three suites of a building along East Smith Street near the Ukiah Library.

“I am really torn by this decision,” said Commission Chairman Mike Whetzel. “But the City Council has kind of tied our hands with this decision.”

When the proposal by Jay Donnellan of Wine Country Cannasseurs first came to the Planning Commission last year, the board voted to not give the business a waiver from city zoning rules that prohibit a cannabis business from operating so close to residences such as the adjacent mobile home park.

When Donnellan appealed that decision to the Ukiah City Council it was overruled and the project was allowed to move forward with a seven-foot fence providing a buffer for the mobile home park.

During the latest public hearing for the project Wednesday, Commissioner Laura Christensen said she was concerned about setting a precedent that would allow other dispensaries near residential properties to move forward without going before the Planning Commission for a waiver by agreeing to put up a fence.

“There is no precedent set, it will go before you every time,” said Community Development Director Craig Schlatter, who was also asked by Whetzel if the annual renewal of permits for cannabis dispensaries could come back before the Planning Commission, rather than be decided by just the Zoning Administrator, which is another hat worn by Schlatter.

“There’s such a controversy within the city about these projects, it might be a good thing for these renewals to come back before the commission because it gives the public more access,” said Whetzel, explaining that while the public can attend Zoning Administrator hearings, they are typically held during business hours while many people are working.

“I have never heard that criticism, and I would be happy to hold meetings after hours if I hear that complaint,” said Schlatter, adding that all of the Zoning Administrator hearings are noticed using the same procedures as for Planning Commission meetings.

Also Wednesday, concerns about the poor condition of the building and its ability to contain cannabis odors were expressed and addressed by the attorney representing Donnellan, Ashley Bargenquast.

“A lot the current building is a bit of an eyesore, and we would like this major use permit to be approved so we can begin to make improvements, because we are not going to rehab this building unless we are allowed to use it,” said Bargenquast. “We’ll have to bring it up to code, and to meet all the conditions in the city code and state code (which include odor control), and if we can’t, we won’t be able to operate.

“We want the the whole community to feel safer, and we feel that by allowing the building to be used, the community will feel safer, and the building will be less of an eyesore and actually contributing to the city,” she said. “Many individuals disagree with the city of Ukiah’s laws regarding commercial cannabis, but there are laws that allow cultivation and dispensaries in this location, and that is why we are here,”

“While the property borders a residential use, we don’t have control over that anymore as a body — it’s been overruled,” Commissioner Christensen said before voting to approve the project along with Whetzel and Commissioner Mark Hilliker. “Things are changing for us here in Ukiah… and we can be hopeful that the tenant will improve the building, increase the foot traffic and maybe invigorate the community a bit by improving what is actually a blighted little piece of Ukiah.”

Commissioners Ruth Van Antwerp and Linda Sanders voted against approving the permit.

Written by homegrownreview

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