More pot permits granted by San Jacinto Council

The San Jacinto City Council, after almost two hours of discussion, approved allowing eight outdoor and eight indoor marijuana cultivation permits applications based on staff’s recommendations during the Sept. 19 regular city council meeting.

The council approval means staff can accept more indoor and outdoor marijuana cultivation permit applications, bringing the number now available from three indoor and three outdoor to eight indoor and eight outdoor to developers. Currently the city staff has approved three indoor permits with three indoor permits submitted for approval, according to City Manager Rob Johnson’s staff report.

Approving the additional marijuana grow permits were councilmembers Russ Utz, Andrew Kotyuk and Crystal Ruiz. Mayor Scott Miller and Mayor Pro Tem Alonso Ladezma voted against the approvals. Added in the recommendation for approval was a statement that new requests for more permits would have to wait until July 2019. The addition was the only way the council could get the approval. The 3-2 vote carried the number adjustment request.

Utz learned at the last city council meeting that the maximum number of outdoor permit applications had already been submitted by deadline, but two other applications could not make it due to an unexpected logistics problem. With that in mind, Utz ask if more permit applications could be allowed to accommodate the two late submittals out of fairness.

Any indoor or outdoor cultivation permit application must meet city ordinance standards before approval. Once approved, the developer would be able to pursue development of the land and facilities for the indoor or outdoor grow site. The developments would have to pay all the fees required and meet all building, safety and environmental standards of the city, county and state and any conditional use requirements set by the council and planning commission.

Utz and the other council members sought the staff’s recommendations whether or not to revise the permit application limit.

Johnson said staff, after reviewing the request, suggested the council could approve the change, saying it would bring more revenue to the city in the future just with cultivation alone. The staff said once approved and developed the added marijuana grows would bring an estimated $250,025 annually for indoor based on 10,001 square foot minimum per facility and $653,400 annually for outdoor based on 1 acre per facility.

Johnson, several times during the discussion, said council request for staff to look into the possibility of changing the three indoor and three outdoor application permit process already approved by the council only two weeks ago, “put us in a very difficult position.”

Before the lengthy discussion began, Miller said he believed the number should remain at three indoor and three outdoor as the original council approved and the city should wait to see what comes of them before more are approved.

“Why are we changing our position now?” Miller said.

Ledezma agreed.

“We haven’t even started yet,” Ledezma said. “I’m not going to say no, but I want to see what those (permit applications approved) do before any more are issued.”

He stayed with his first statement and voted not to approve the suggested adjustment at the end of the discussion.

Ruiz said, “Eight more is just too high.”

Yet, with the addition of no further discussion on the permit application matter until 2019, she voted, to approve the change but maintained her stand against recreational marijuana cultivation and use in the city.

“I will not support any dispensaries in this city,” Ruiz said.

Utz maintained his position that the city should capitalize on the approval of marijuana cultivation because it will bring higher paying jobs and more jobs to the community enhancing the city revenues. He said the city needed to take action, in approving and regulating the marijuana developments before the state decided to make the decisions for the city and before the growing interest in developing the marijuana industry in San Jacinto wanes.

Staff how many calls they were getting by marijuana growers about obtaining permits.

“We are getting two or three calls a day,” one staff member said.

Kotyuk said he took office with the purpose of seeing the city grow in its development and to help it increase its revenues. He said the city supporting the legitimate medical marijuana industry is one way of achieving the goal. He pointed out the city only has until Dec. 31 to make its own marijuana cultivation, testing, distribution and dispensary sales decisions before the state does theirs.

“The state wants to get in the game after the deadline,” Kotyuk said.

He has favored bringing the medical marijuana industry into the city with strict regulations with the hope to drive the illegitimate growers out. Even with the passage of the ordinances thus far, permitting limited marijuana developments in the city “our job is not done,” Kotyuk said. He said he believes the city still needs more funding for its public safety departments and infrastructure with marijuana developments promising to bring in those needed revenues.

He said the city needed to increase the number of legitimate medical marijuana grows and have more workshops on the matter before the end of the year. The city council has discussions and workshops on permitting marijuana dispensaries in the city on its future agenda list. They are not permitted by the city at this time and considered highly illegal.

A number of developers at the meeting applauded council’s decision and congratulated each other after the council’s adjournment about 11 p.m.

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