By Chris Frost
Oxnard—Cannabis shops in Oxnard moved closer to reality, Aug. 15, as the Planning Commission passed a text amendment to the cannabis ordinance with a 4-3 vote.
Commissioner Wilfredo Chua made a friendly amendment to the ordinance that included a 600-foot buffer for retail shops from residential areas, with the exemption of mixed-use. Commissioner Orlando Dozier and Commissioner Jeremy Meyer rejected the motion because of the 600-foot buffer zone. Commissioner Daniel Chavez Jr. rejected the motion outright and said there are too many red flags in the ordinance for him to support it.
Planning & Sustainability Director Kathleen Mallory presented the ordinance to the commission and said the council had a study session on June 26, 2018, to look at the cannabis uses. They focused on manufacturing, testing, distribution, retail, and cultivation.
During the meeting, they determined the city could support between 8-18 dispensaries.
"In Oct., the council took a "go slow" direction and said let's not jump in and do all 18 at this time," Mallory said. "Let's consider and evaluate over the next year at what the proper number is. We evaluated and looked at it and determined that eight dispensaries would be right in the city."
From Oct.2018, until July 2019, the city staff has been working on the ordinance, including best practices, development standards. The internal cannabis team made sure the public's health, safety, and welfare are protected.
"We're proposing locations as well as land use controls that are appropriate for our community," she said.
The council approved the manufacturing, testing, and distribution ordinance on July 19, and passed the cannabis fee structure at the end of July. During that meeting, the council supported going from eight to 16 dispensaries.
"We just opened up our manufacturing testing and distribution window," she said. "It's a competitive process, and we've opened that up for a 45-day period that goes through Oct. 10. It's not the first one in gets an application; we're going to be opening the window of applications. The application period starts our comprehensive review of all our applications beginning on Oct. 11. The city will allow eight distribution facilities, five manufacturing facilities, and one testing lab."
The permitting process will be the same for retail, testing, and distribution. The process starts with securing a zoning verification letter from the planning division, followed by requesting a live scan background check from the Oxnard Police Department.
"That's a request, and you get a fee receipt," she said. "You don't go through the whole process because that takes time, you submit for that and get a fee receipt."
From there, the applicant moves to step two, she said, which is applying, along with submitting information about eligibility, followed by an evaluation and initial ranking. The city expects to receive more applications than the allowed facilities.
"Through the competitive evaluation process, you'll be invited to go through the fourth step, which is the interviews and the second-ranking," Mallory said. "Once you pass through the second-ranking, all the applicants will be ranked again and presented to the city manager's office. There will be a running list of where you're at. You'll be invited to submit an application for either a special use permit or a development design permit."
The goal is to achieve a competitive multi-step process, she said, which produces the best applicants that can do a good job and run a great business.
For the retail component, there will be a siting criterion, and the city can establish any criteria they would like. The state regulation is a 600-foot buffer, and the direction from the council is to go ahead with the 600-foot buffer from parcel line to parcel line.
"It's a 600-foot buffer from a sensitive receptor, which is defined by state law as a public or private school, charter school, a commercial daycare center, not a family daycare center or youth center or a public park," she said. "The city can reduce the buffer if it's something they feel like they want to do.
She pointed out that residential use is not a sensitive use, so there is no buffer.
Mallory said the commission a large group of maps that show areas where cannabis would be allowed, including shopping centers, and stand-alone commercial locations.
"It's intended to be a conceptual map," she said. "It's a map in the concept of where these users can go. Until you drill down, parcel-by-parcel, you can't be precisely sure if a cannabis retailer can go into a specific parcel. I had an applicant who came in and met with me yesterday (Aug. 14), and we took the measurement tool on our GIS system, and they were just barely outside of that 600-foot buffer. We have to do point-by-point, and that's part of going through the competitive multi-step process.
Currently, the city does not propose any retail cannabis shops downtown, because there will be new zoning designations in early Sept.
"We'll be looking at those if they make sense downtown," she said. "We can't amend a code when it isn't in our zoning ordinance yet."
The ordinance has best practice requirements, including on-site security personnel, an emergency response plan for fires, robberies, and evacuations, alarm systems and required yearly inspections.
"Some of these standards we'd be imposing will vary from applicant-to-applicant," she said. "For example, an alarm system may be universally the same for all types of cannabis retailers, but it may be different for manufacturing, testing, and distribution facility. Additionally, cash handling may be different when you are applying for a retail facility, but maybe not for manufacturing, testing, and distribution."
Additionally, cameras for surveillance will be needed in collaboration with the police department. Customers will buzz to enter; and development of system requirements and protocols with the police department.
Business must secure any inventory when closed. There must be ongoing training for all employees, and there will be limited inventory on display. Employees are subject to a background check, and all inventory will be reconciled every day.
There will be consideration given for neighborhood compatibility- for noise traffic and parking,
"There are a couple of minor modifications we need to look at for the manufacturing, testing and distribution ordinance," Mallory said. "There are minor grammatical changes that we need to address, and there are code citation changes. We noticed that one had an erroneous code citation."
This story will continue in the Aug. 30, edition.
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