The Trinity County Planning Commission got its first look last week at a draft cannabis retail ordinance to allow storefront retail sales of cannabis products in Trinity County where none are currently permitted.
The draft ordinance was developed by county Planning Department staff borrowing from existing retail storefront cannabis sales ordinances of other jurisdictions including the city of Ukiah and others in the Northern California region.
It was presented to the Planning Commission last week along with a staff recommendation to continue the item to a future meeting for additional public input. Comments were received at the June 11 meeting before commissioners delved into the draft regulations page by page and then voted to continue the matter to their July 9 meeting for further consideration.
Ultimately, the Planning Commission will make its own recommendations to the Trinity County Board of Supervisors regarding adoption of the proposed ordinance.
The draft presented last week would allow cannabis stores in the following zoning districts: Highway Commercial (HC), Retail Commercial (C-1), General Commercial (C-2) and Heavy Commercial (C-3). There would be no use permit required to address site specific conditions, and there is no cap proposed in the number of licenses that could be issued. It is silent on opt-out areas the county has authorized in its ordinance regulating commercial cannabis cultivation.
There is a proposed setback requirement for cannabis stores to be located at least 500 feet away from youth-oriented facilities, schools, churches, school bus stops, or residential treatment facilities. Sales would be limited to the hours of 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., prohibiting sales in the middle of the night. Only cannabis products would be available for sale, not alcohol or tobacco, and no on-site consumption of food, alcohol, tobacco or cannabis would be allowed without prior written approval from the county. No one under the age of 21 would be allowed to enter the designated product area of a store.
The draft ordinance includes security measures required by the state such as closed circuit cameras and an on-site security guard. If located within a special treatment area such as a historic district, the business applicant would be required to seek a Planning Director’s use permit, approved by the Architectural Review Committee, to ensure compliance with historical standards.
Any retail cannabis business is required to comply with all state regulations including product testing, labeling, packaging and storage and to participate in the state’s track and trace system. It would also be subject to inspection by the county.
A county license would be valid for one year and not transferable from one person to another without completion of a new application.
At least 36 comment letters were received prior to last week’s Planning Commission hearing on the draft ordinance. They came primarily from Lewiston residents or property owners who overwhelmingly demanded an opt-out for that area as they obtained in the cultivation ordinance.
They asked that no cannabis storefronts be allowed to open in their area, citing issues of crime and loss of tourism. Several also objected to allowing cannabis stores to open within any historic district such as downtown Weaverville which is primarily zoned C-2.
Many also requested a cap in the number of cannabis storefront licenses to be issued, similar to how the state limits the number of alcohol licenses issued in a community, noting there is only one pharmacy in Trinity County. Some argued for greater setback requirements (1,000 feet) from youth facilities, schools, churches, parks and other sensitive uses, and some advocated for a use permit requirement to address site specific conditions of any proposal.
Several in the room for last week’s Planning Commission meeting were supportive of the proposed ordinance and urged the county to adopt it as soon as possible.
One noted she intends to open a cannabis storefront on her property in Douglas City because she’d like “to help Trinity County. Cannabis has been declared an ‘essential business’ by the state of California, and there are millions of dollars available to Trinity County, but it must have brick and mortar locations.”
Some said they think the draft ordinance is a good first step, but it needs to be broadened in scope to allow for barn and farm sales of cannabis where appropriately located. Others urged the county to back off from over-regulating the industry and applying additional rules already addressed by state law.
Some argued that in addition to generating revenue for the county, retail cannabis sales would be good for tourism while supporting local cultivators and providing them an opportunity “to showcase Trinity County’s world-class product.”
At least two commissioners said they want to see some provision to address opt-out requests from areas that don’t want retail cannabis storefronts in their midst. Commissioner Mike McHugh also said he would like to see a conditional use permit required in any of the county’s cannabis ordinances to address specific issues that could involve signage and possibly others depending on the location an applicant chooses. Regarding setbacks, he said the county’s other ordinances specify 1,000 feet from sensitive receptors and it should be consistent.
Commissioner Diana Stewart argued that if the state says it’s 600 feet, “it should be 600 feet,” and that Hayfork wants to opt out from school bus stop setbacks.
She argued against a conditional use permit requirement, saying it shouldn’t be needed if the ordinance language clearly addresses issues like signage, and she agreed with speakers who said cannabis stores can become a big tourism draw for an area.
Commissioners also discussed a possible cap on the number of storefront licenses that might be issued and transferability of licenses, but came to no conclusions or consensus except in voting to continue the item for further consideration and public input on July 9.