Government / Politics

San Juan Bautista Council Members Introduce Cannabis Ordinance Draft.

Drafted by Victor Gomez of Pinnacle Strategy, this is the first time members of the public had access to the ordinance.

San Juan Bautista City Council Members introduced a draft of the Cannabis Ordinance at the Nov. 8 special meeting.  

Mayor Chris Martorana and Councilman Dan DeVries, who serve on the Cannabis Ad Hoc committee asked Victor Gomez, of Pinnacle Strategy, to give a presentation of the draft and provide the council and the public a brief update. 

"There's been so much activity around this…rather than us operating under the radar we needed to put this out a little more publicly and make it so that there is not questions about whose involved, what's going on, any hint of impropriety or anything like that," said Martorana. "This thing is going to get away from us very quickly if we’re not careful."  

During his presentation Gomez said he was brought on to "help draft and set rules and regulations and a fee schedule" as well as "a full recovery model." 

The council hired Gomez in August with the finalization and formal approval of a cannabis consulting contract. The contract, which started on Sept. 1, 2017 and is set to end May 31, 2018, allows either party to terminate the contract with or without cause within a 30-day period. See article "San Juan City Council Moves Forward with Marijuana Ban." 

Gomez said the draft ordinance came out of meetings with the Ad Hoc committee over recent months. 

"We all know what we're trying to do here. We're trying to regulate something that hasn't been regulated ever before in the past. We have adult use, looming on us Jan. 1. We have rules and regulations coming from the state any day now that will really dictate where we're going to land on a lot of these issues," he said.

During public comment San Juan Bautista Resident George Diaz voiced his concerns over the zoning issues and problems he encountered with getting his property zoned correctly.   

"It took me three years and thousands of dollars to get it where it is today and you guys come in with a magic marker and just circle it and say I'm changing your zoning. No, it's not right," he said. "you never notified any of the property owners that this was going on." 

During the presentation Gomez said the Ad Hoc committee focused on allowing different forms of cannabis use and business in the south corridor of Highway 156 and in zones designated as agricultural and industrial.  

Patient advocate Mandisa Snodey said an environmental report needed to be done before they started to designate zones.

"… you need to do an environmental impact report to be able to limit it to a specific part of the city. I don't know how you can arbitrarily draw a line and say well I'm going to put it here without any actual documentation of that," she said. 

"I've been reading the General Plan and seeing how many of the land use in the Strategic Plan directly relates to cannabis industry: creating a small industry, being more lax on mixed use and changing use to be able to allow new businesses in town," she continued. "This is not a criminal element. This is not an illegal drug. This is not a morality issue. I think the council needs to move forward based on facts and based on science." 

 San Benito County resident Elia Salinas said she didn't think the city should ask the applicant for a fee before they do a background check.    

"I am not going to have the city, or recommend that the city do a background check before you take the fee. You take the fee and if it's a criminal, they come back and they don't qualify, sorry that's the fee that the city keeps because that's the work that they've done. So, I don't understand what is meant by that," she said. 

Earlier in his presentation Gomez said the applicant would be charged to get their background check done.  

"Any person or entity that wishes to engage in cannabis business activities has to apply for a permit through the city manager's office. The applicant has to submit multiple documents. They have to be live scanned, they have to go through a background check and so on. That could be done through the sheriff's department or through the Hollister Police Department. They would charge the applicant a fee to get that done," he said. 

 To see a copy of the draft ordinance, click on the PDF at the bottom of this article.  

Traffic Concerns 

City Council members also continued discussion about traffic concerns on Fourth Street after they were first brought up at the Sept.19 meeting after resident Rachel Ponce said she was almost hit by a speeding car as she was crossing the street prompting others to voice their concerns over speeding cars. See article, "San Juan Bautista City Council Hires Interim City Manager

During the discussion city attorney Deborah Mall said there would need to be a traffic study done after councilman Tony Boch suggested placing speed bumps. 

"You do need a traffic study before you put in speed bumps. Otherwise, it could be potentially unsafe and you want to cover your liability," she said. 

Councilman John Freeman suggested asking the planning commission to come back with ideas other than speed bumps to calm traffic. 

"There are many ways a traffic engineer can slow down traffic without speed bumps we just need to investigate," he said. 

During public comment Ponce said, "You must understand the resident's frustration and concern about the speeding going on, on Fourth street. Referring the issue to the planning commission will just prolong a solution that has gone on for too long." 

"The planning commission has cancelled numerous meetings lately. It will have to take time to fill current vacancies. All this causes delays in addressing the community's concerns about the traffic issues," she said. "In the meantime, request, demand, ask, plead, whatever to the sheriff to be more present and active in addressing the traffic issues." 

Diaz said the problem wasn't just happening on Fourth Street "but all streets." 

He agreed that a traffic study needed to be done and that there needed to be communication with the sheriff to address traffic concerns. 

Former councilwoman Joleen Cosio suggested putting in raised cross walks.  

"…They are just a lot better option. They serve multi-purposes, they are not as noisy as speed bumps. The whole cross walk is raised. I just think raised crosswalks throughout town, at all of our entrances at all of our exits, where you seem to get the worst speeding is a really good option," she said.  

Councilman Boch said he didn’t think the issue didn't need to be taken to planning commission. 

"I don't think we have to go to the planning commission. I think we need a traffic engineer to tell us," he said.  

Council members directed staff to have engineering firm Harris and Associates take a look at the issues and come back with suggestions at a future meeting. 

Earlier in the meeting council members approved a contract with Harris and Associates for city engineering services including roads, waste and water management.   

The city approved to contract with 4Leaf, Inc. for building services including building inspections, electrical and plumbing inspections, environmental consulting, and construction management at the Sept. 19 meeting.   

Laura Romero

Laura Romero has been a reporter and handled marketing/social media for BenitoLink. She has covered education and city government. Formerly, she worked as an assistant account executive at Pembroke PR in San Francisco, where she assisted with press outreach, event coordination, and social media planning. With her PR skills, she has helped to implement social media strategies and develop online giving campaigns for BenitoLink. Laura continues to contribute to BenitoLink on a freelance basis.