Wildomar doubles budget for CEQA negative declaration for cannabis ordinance

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The Wildomar City Council narrowly approved more funding pertaining to a cannabis ordinance being developed by city staff to comply with a California Supreme Court ruling that all municipalities in the state must include a CEQA review in their cannabis ordinances. Courtesy photo

The city of Wildomar approved another $56,000 Wednesday, Nov. 13, to adhere to a recent California Supreme Court case that ruled that all municipalities in the state must include a CEQA review in their cannabis ordinances.

The council and city staff have been working on putting together an ordinance for the city and had originally budgeted $50,000 for the project.

The decision means $56,000 from the city’s General Fund balance was appropriated to prepare the required negative declaration for the cannabis code amendment.

According to the city’s planning director, Matt Bassi, it would then be open to potential lawsuits.

“If the council does end up approving this funding, and we go forward with the negative declaration, just like any other action by council, it can be challenged,” Bassi said.”It’s not a developer-driven code amendment, so we would take on the burden of defending it.”

During the public comment section on the topic, Veronica and Greg Langsworthy spoke in opposition.

“It’s not too late to consider your position that we do not need to go toward weed,” Veronica Langsworthy said during public comment. “We need to stop it. It’s not good for the youth in our community. It’s not good for our community; you need to rethink it and just say no. Don’t spend the money on it.”

Resident Gina Castanon spoke in favor of the additional funding.

“Don’t pigeonhole cannabis separately,” Castanon said. ”It’s an industry, just like tobacco, alcohol, pharmaceuticals, any other commercial retail. Please vote ‘yes.’ Make our community safe, and let’s move forward as soon as possible.”

Council member Joseph Morabito said he wants marijuana, which he said is already in the city, to be regulated by the city.

“I don’t know why anybody would be in favor of an unregulated market,” he said.

Council member Bridgette Moore defended a survey conducted earlier this year that said residents in the community didn’t want the ordinance. She compared the wants versus needs of the community as it pertained to shade structures at local parks.

“This, on the other hand, is a want, because the survey says that residents do not want it here,” Moore said. “So, it is a want to spend $56,000 on something that the residents don’t want.”

“Well, I wholeheartedly disagree,” Mayor Pro Tem Dustin Nigg said. “This $56,000 I think is worth it. I don’t want to govern or manage under the threat of a potential lawsuit because of some naysayer. I think we should stand up and do what we think is right. I believe this is the right thing to do, so I am going to vote in favor of it.”

Council member Ben Benoit said he was tired of running the council under the threat of a possible lawsuit.

“If the lawsuit comes, we’ll have to cross that bridge, but I think at this point it’s just one more hurdle. It’s unfortunate it’s another $56,000,” he said.

Mayor Marsha Swanson talked about illegal grows within the city and said she didn’t think legalizing cannabis shops in the city was going to thwart illegal activity.

“They are going to continue to grow and export, having it here is not going to solve any of that,” she said.

The motion carried 3-2 with Swanson and Moore opposed.

The city council also unanimously approved the consent calendar that consisted of a second reading of the Business Registration Program Ordinance Amendment, filing the First Quarter Capital Improvement Program Status Report, the annexation of No. 19 into Community Facilities District No. 2013-1 for Smith Ranch Storage and changes to the position classification schedule.

The vote also meant the city council adopted a resolution adding the senior planner position schedule for a newly created position.

During public hearings, the council conducted and completed a public hearing, vote and approved a regulation regarding territory that was annexed to the Community Facilities District No. 2013-1.

The council also adopted an Organic Waste Code Amendment that was in response to Assembly Bill 1826 that requires commercial businesses and multifamily developments to recycle organic waste, which includes food, green, landscape, pruning, nonhazardous food and food-soiled paper waste.

The council also unanimously approved the adoption of an ordinance introducing California building codes.

The council also approved the Holiday Lights Home Decorating Contest for 2019 and appointed two council members to judge the contest.

Before the meeting, Assembly member Melissa Melendez gave a legislative update about upcoming ballot measures at the state level and Wildomar Elementary School Principal Michael Hoffman honored teachers Roddy St. Yves and Gay St.Yves. Both have taught in the district for more than 34 years.

Jeff Pack can be reached by email at jpack@reedermedia.com.

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