Wildomar planning commission hosts special meeting on cannabis

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The city of Wildomar’s planning commission holds a special meeting and study session regarding the development of code amendment dealing with licensing and zoning regulations for cannabis-based businesses in the city Tuesday, Oct. 9. City of Wildomar photo

Wildomar’s planning commission held a study session special meeting Tuesday, Oct. 8, to help the commission and city council develop a code amendment pertaining to licensing and zoning regulations for medicinal and recreational adult-use cannabis business in the city.

The commission heard recommendations from the city council’s ad hoc committee consisting of staff and council members Dustin Nigg and Bridgette Moore.

The committee reviewed cannabis ordinances as part of this effort, including ordinances from the cities of Cathedral City, Lake Elsinore, Perris and Riverside County.

According to city staff, a city license, conditional use permit and development agreement will be required for all cannabis businesses regardless of zone location within city limits.

The license must be renewed annually and is subject to review. “Good Cause” for denial would include a violation of city’s regulations, state law and regulation or conditions of approval; if the business adversely affects the community or welfare or safety of the immediate neighborhood; false statements; the operation of another cannabis business in violation; and failure to allow inspections by the city.

The code would prohibit cannabis use on the premises and alcohol and tobacco sales. The city would require video surveillance at each business as well as secured storage of cannabis at all times, an alarm system, illumination and controlled access to non-public areas by visitors.

It would require that businesses notify law enforcement in cases of theft or diversion and businesses can only do business with other legal cannabis businesses.
Potential businesses would be allowed to be open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., age restrictions would be put into place for entry, and cannabis products will not be allowed to be seen from the exterior of the business.

Businesses must allow for inspections of the premises and records by the city.

According to the code, retailers will be allowed in C-1/C-P and C-P-S commercial zones and cultivation, manufacturing, distribution, and testing laboratories will be allowed in M-SC & I-P industrial zones.

Originally, the council was hoping to have the fully developed code back to the planning commission in November and to the city council in December, but due to California Environmental Quality Act review processes, city staff indicated those deadlines would be pushed back by two months.

Commissioner Arin Banks asked if they could expand a proposed 600-foot distance minimum from public or private schools, commercial day care centers and youth centers.

Assistant city attorney Erica Vega said the 600-foot limit was based on state recommendations and could be adjusted and extended.

Commissioner Eric Filar asked whether there would be background checks for owners, and Vega indicated that background checks would be required for owner and background checks could extend to employees if the city saw fit.

The meeting was opened to the public for comment.

“All in all, I’m happy with the ordinance so far as it’s drafted,” resident Kenneth Mays told the commission. “But I have some questions about the location requirements.”

He asked whether youth centers in nearby cities would be exempt from distance protections.

The planning director said they could redraft the definition if need be.

Resident Susan Rivera next approached the dais with a request for a more detailed list of trigger points in the “Good Cause” denial language detailed in the code that she said was relatively broad.

Several other residents expressed approval of the code’s draft.

Others expressed frustration with the city for going forward in creating the code.

“The zoning that you’re talking about, the general commercial and the scenic highway commercial, that’s every single exit from the freeway,” resident Veronica Langworthy said. “Is that how we’re going to be recognized? As ‘Wildomar – Weedomar?’ Welcome to Weedomar. That lovely icon of our city is going to be a marijuana leaf.”

She also cited a survey of residents that indicated that a majority of residents didn’t want to have cannabis businesses within city limits.

Her husband Craig suggested the issue be put to a vote.

Filar was in agreement with Banks and commissioner Kim Strong with extending the distance requirements.

Bassi also said that the draft ordinance was sent to the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department and that they were in support of the ordinance so far.

Planning commission chair John Lloyd said he was glad for the opportunity to regulate cannabis at the city level.

“We’ve got 50 years of evidence that indicates we’re not going to be able to stop it from being used and keep it out the community,” he said. “I think its time is now, but we want to do this right.”

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