The City Council will consider on Tuesday an amendment to the Turlock Municipal Code that would expressly prohibit all activities related to the commercial or personal use and cultivation of marijuana in the City limits.
While the City of Turlock already bans commercial medical marijuana dispensaries in the city limits and cultivation of marijuana is excluded from the zoning ordinance as an agricultural use, the City is hoping to prevent future issues that might arise related to the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act, which was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown earlier this year.
The Act sets up a State licensing process for commercial medical marijuana uses. Local cities and counties can prohibit these activities in their jurisdictions, however, they must enact such prohibitions by March 15, 2016.
The Turlock Police Department is recommending the City Council adopt these prohibitions, as the cultivation and sale of marijuana poses a public safety concern. According to the police department, since 1996 when California voters enacted Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use Act enabling persons who are seriously ill to use marijuana with a physician's approval, the city has experiences a marked increase in complaints and crime associated with the usage and cultivation of the plant.
The police department has responded to numerous incidents since November 2014, where individuals who had been cultivating marijuana on their premises were attacked in attempts to steal the plants being grown. All of the incidents had the suspects shooting the victims, according to a City staff report on the issue. Three of the incidents were classified as attempted homicides. The fourth, and most recent incident which occurred in 2015, involved the guest of a homeowner who was shot and killed during an attempt to force entry into the home. There was evidence that showed that the home had an indoor marijuana grow.
The police department also reports receiving daily requests for assistance from residents during the marijuana harvest season due to the pungent odor or the plants.
The Turlock Narcotics Enforcement Team has assisted in numerous thefts of power calls, at least 20, and the majority had indications of an indoor cultivation of marijuana utilizing indoor growing fixtures. The manner in which the electricity itself was stolen posed a safety hazard to neighbors, according to the report.
Also on Tuesday, the City Council is expected to:
• Consider amending the Turlock Municipal Code regarding maintenance of curbs, gutters, sidewalks, curb cuts and driveway approaches. The proposed amendment would require that with every sale or transfer of property the seller is required to provide notice of the property owner's maintenance obligations related to street trees and sidewalk areas.
• Consider adopting revised Neighborhood Street Tree Themes and Options. City staff reviewed its current list of approved street tree themes after an increase of complaints from residents and found that many of the trees on the list were not being used because of high root systems, susceptibility to mistletoe, disease or were not drought tolerant. New trees that would added to the list include Paper Maple, Mimosa, Eastern Red Bud and Big Leaf Maple. Trees that would no longer be planted include: Bradford Pear, London Plane, Carob, Fern Pine, and Raywood Ash, among others.
• Consider approving an agreement between the City and the Turlock Gospel Mission for a Pilot Supportive Services/Case Management program funded with Community Development Block Grant funds in the amount of $36,000 under the public services program. The Pilot program would assist individuals who have committed a violation of the City or other government ordinances, codes or laws and have a need for guidance and facilitation of available social services necessary to encourage good community participation.\
• Accept a $100,000 grant from the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District to purchase five Ford F-250 pickup trucks powered by alternative fuel. The trucks would be used by the City's Development Services Department and Parks, Recreation and Public Facilities Maintenance Department.
• Consider approving the transfer of ownership of two Merced County Transit buses into service in the City of Turlock.
• Consider approving the use of bus shelters for advertising purposes and directing ad revenue to be applied toward meeting the federally mandated farebox recovery ratio.
• Consider the purchase of 12 Fast Fare electronic fareboxes for City transit buses in the amount not to exceed $316,616. Current City bus passengers can only pay with the correct cash, coin or paper tickets. The newer electronic fareboxes would allow the City buses to accept additional options for payment such as cash, coin, smart card, magnetic strip cards and e-passes.
• Consider either authorizing the hiring of three full-time firefighters or authorizing overtime for three firefighter positions for a six month period from Jan. 1 to June 30.
• Accept and appoint Robert A. Talloni to the position of Fire Chief of the Turlock City Fire Department effective Dec. 14.
The Turlock City Council meets at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the Yosemite Room of Turlock City Hall, 156 S. Broadway.