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Planning Commission prepares to see first cannabis applicants
planning cannabis
The Premier Group has their sights set on the property located at 495 S. Golden State Blvd. for a cannabis cultivation, manufacturing and distribution plant (ANGELINA MARTIN/The Journal).

The Planning Commission will see what could potentially be Turlock’s first Cannabis Pilot Program participants during their meeting on Thursday, but first, the elected officials took time to educate themselves on the marijuana industry prior to deciding upon agreements between business operators and the City.

During a joint City Council and Planning Commission meeting on July 23, the two governing bodies convened to discuss zoning and land use for the 40 respondents to the pilot program’s Request for Qualifications, which included 32 dispensary candidates and eight cultivation, distribution and manufacturing candidates. While the 32 dispensary candidates were narrowed down to a top four, with an additional six alternates, the City Council-approved program allows for an unlimited number of non-retail businesses.

As the Planning Commission received information on the proposed zoning ordinances back in July (which were approved by the City Council last week), Commissioner Elvis Dias argued that the process was moving along quickly, with the commission receiving little information compared to the Council as time passed.

“We’ve had workshops for accessory structures, signs, for all of these types of things…this is very much fast-tracked compared to those things,” Dias said on July 23. “I guess I just haven’t seen examples of other communities presented here and I think that’s of value. Especially since we’re a year behind and they’ve had a year to do things…let’s compare and see, does it fit into Turlock and into those zones?”

On the spot, City Attorney Doug White offered to arrange a visit to a local cannabis operation so that the Planning Commission could get a firsthand look at the industry. On Monday, a majority of the commission took a tour of Kase Manufacturing, a cannabis manufacturing facility, and Kase’s Journey, a retail dispensary, both located in Ceres.

Commissioner Constance Anderson said the experience was very educational, as it was her first time at any type of cannabis business.

“Cannabis is one of those things…it’s very polarizing and everyone has an opinion one way or the other. But, regardless of your personal opinion there’s always room to be educated on the subject, which is exactly what I was hoping that the group would get out of it,” Anderson said.

Anderson said the facilities met her expectations; she was expecting tightly-run, highly technical operations, and that’s what she saw.

“It was very well-run and very clean. They’ve definitely set up their operation in such a way with the process and protocols followed very tightly to ensure a good product and a safe working environment and that was communicated to us as we had the opportunity to walk around and observe it all,” she said.

Come Thursday, the Planning Commission will decide upon Development Agreements between the City and three different businesses: a dispensary located at 1601 W. Main St., a cultivation, manufacturing and distribution business located at 495 S. Golden State Blvd. and a distribution business located at 501 W. F St. A fourth business whose Development Agreement was also set to be considered on Thursday will not be considered, as the applicant is changing the proposed location from 576 S. Center St. to a different location.

While locations for each respective business were included in each action item for Thursday’s Planning Commission meeting, the commission will solely be approving the Development Agreements, not the sites themselves. That will come at a later time, when each candidate who has an approved Development Agreement applies for a Conditional Use Permit within the City, which will also go before both the Planning Commission and the City Council. Thursday’s meeting will also give the Planning Commission the chance to hear from each candidate and see how their plan fits into the city.

The retail dispensary location, Firehouse, will be operated by The Premier Group, which owns dispensaries in Ceres, Modesto and Riverbank as well. The group would like to see the dispensary go in the former Waffle Shop location on West Main Street, as detailed in their RFQ proposal.  Under the proposed Development Agreement, Firehouse would pay a public benefit amount to the City greater than $1.2 million annually, no less than $25,000 per month or 5.25 percent of its gross receipts on a monthly basis during the first year. Annually, the minimum amount of $25,000 will increase by $5,000.

Fuego Azul, Inc., also owned by The Premier Group, would represent the company’s first cultivation, manufacturing and distribution site — a warehouse that sits at 495 S. Golden State Blvd. For cultivation and manufacturing, the business will pay a public benefit fee of $10 per square foot. The proposed, industrially-zoned location amounts to 56,168 square feet of property. For distribution, a public benefit fee amounting to 2.5 percent of gross receipts will also be provided for the City.

The last Development Agreement the Planning Commission will consider comes from Cal State Ventures2, which is hoping to open a distribution center at 501 W. F St. The business would provide a public benefit fee amounting to no less than 2.5 percent of its monthly gross receipts.

“Regardless of whether or not I think they fit in, it’s something that our Council has approved…It’s really the position and the desire of the commission to make sure we make the best recommendation so that these organizations — and they are going to come into our area — have the best opportunity to thrive and that it happens to be in synchronicity with all the rest of the development in Turlock,” Anderson said. “We’re in a very progressive place right now and we want to make sure that things are done properly, that we do the research, vet it out thoroughly and make sure we’re doing it the right way.”

The next Planning Commission meeting will take place at 6 p.m. Thursday in the Yosemite Community Room at City Hall, 156 South Broadway.