Needles, CA: Needles City Council approved zone change and conditional use permit for a medical marijuana cultivation facility along Lilyhill Drive.

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Needles, CA: Needles City Council approved zone change and conditional use permit for a medical marijuana cultivation facility along Lilyhill Drive.

Members of the Needles City Council approved zone change and a conditional use permit for a medical marijuana cultivation facility along Lilyhill Drive, between Interstate 40 and the Lilyhill Apartments, in Needles, California.

The voted happened during a Needles City Council and Needles Public Utility Authority Meeting that was held inside the Needles City Council Chambers in Needles, California on Tuesday, February 14th, 2017.

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The public got the opportunity to get more information on both of the agenda items during public hearing on Agenda Item #4 (Zone Change) and Agenda Item #5 (Conditional Use Permit), and the public got to view how the zone changes and the medical marijuana cultivation facility will look like in pictures presented in a PowerPoint Presentation to members of the Needles City Council.

** Agenda Item #4: **

** Part 2: **

** Agenda Item #4 Videos from ZachNews on YouTube: **

Background: In order to permit the operation of the proposed cultivation facility (Refer to attached Conditional Use Permit Staff Report and Resolution), the applicants, MSB Cultivation LLC, have submitted an application for a General Plan Amendment and Zone Change on two parcels; APN 0186-191-50 and APN 0186-191-53 (See Attachments A and B).

Under the General Plan Amendment, APN 0186-191-50 would be redesignated from a Residential High Density (RH) designation to a Neighborhood Commercial (CN) designation; and APN 0186-191-53 would be redesignated from a Residential Medium Density (RM) designation to a Neighborhood Commercial (CN). Under the Zone Change, APN 0186-191-50 would be redesignated from a Multiple Family Residential (R-3) designation to Neighborhood Commercial (C-1) designation; and APN 0186-191-53 would be redesignated from an Open Space (O) designation to a Neighborhood Commercial (C-1) designation. A public hearing was held at the January 18, 2017 Planning Commission Meeting for the General Plan Amendment and Zone Change.

Testimony included opposition to the General Plan Amendment and Zone Change, requesting that the parcels remain zoned for residential uses, since the surrounding area is currently residential; that Commercial-type businesses would not have freeway access, that these types of projects may emit toxins into the air and would be better suited in an area Outside of the city’s primary residential area. Other comments were directed toward the proposed Conditional Use Permit (Refer to Background discussion in Conditional Use Permit Staff Report).

The applicant’s representative, Josh Stewart expressed support for the proposed General Plan Land Use and Zone Change to Neighborhood Commercial stating that this Would be the most appropriate designation for the project site and surrounding community.

Once testimony was closed, the Planning Commission discussed the project, with Concern raised in recommending approval for the project because the Tribal Consultation process was still ongoing, as well as the biological assessment report for one of the parcels that had not yet been received. Staff advised that the application could be approved that evening, contingent upon the completion of both assessments prior to an appointed City Council Hearing.

The Planning Commission voted 5-0 to approve Resolution No. 01-182017-1 PC, recommending approval of the General Plan and Zone Change for the subject parcels APN 0186-191-50 and APN 0186-191-53 subject to receipt of Outstanding information. Both assessments have been completed and information received.

When a project requires a discretionary action such as a GPA, change of Zone or CUP, Native American consultation is required to be completed prior to the City Council taking action. For the MSB Cultivation project, a project description including the applicant entitlement request, was sent to the three Tribes who had previously requested notification under the requirements of AB 52, enacted in 2015. This was done on December 22, 2016 via certified mail. One tribe, the 29 Palms tribe requested a copy of the Cultural Resources Assessment. This was provided to them via email. The tribe responded with a request that a Native American monitor be present On-site during all ground disturbing activities due to the presence of known resources in the vicinity of the project site. This has been made a condition of approval of the CUP (Condition 22).

No response was received from either the Morongo or CRIT groups after 30 days of receipt of the City’s request for consultation. Therefore, the Consultation has been concluded and no further action on the part of the City is required.

Fiscal impact: None.

Environmental impact: This project is categorically exempt under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) under Section 15061(b)(3) of the State CEQA Guidelines. A project is considered to be exempt from CEQA if the activity is covered by the general rule that CEQA applies only to projects which have the potential for causing a significant effect on the environment. Where it can be seen with certainty that there is no possibility that the activity in question may have a significant effect on the environment, the activity is not subject to CEQA.

The project area of disturbance involving paved road construction, grading for the facility building and retention basin, will not exceed five acres in size, but will account for approximately 1.51 acres as compared to the overall area of combined subject parcels (36 acres). Nonetheless, because the site is undeveloped and vacant, a

Biological Resources Assessment and Cultural Resources Assessment were conducted. Findings of the two assessments were negative.

Recommended Action: I make a motion to: Approve City Council Ordinance 589-AC, Approving a proposed General Plan Amendment from a Residential High Density (RH) designation to a Neighborhood Commercial (CN) designation and a proposed Zone Change from a Multiple Family Residential (R-3) designation to a Neighborhood Commercial (C-1) designation for the parcel known as APN 0186-191-50; and for a proposed General Plan Amendment from a Residential Medium Density (RM) designation to a Neighborhood Commercial (CN) designation and a proposed Zone Change from an Open Space (O) designation to a Neighborhood Commercial (C-1) designation for the parcel known as APN 0186-191-53.

** Agenda Packet (Agenda Item #4): **

http://cityofneedles.com/2017%20WEBSITE%20FILE%20POSTING/1%20CITY%20COUNCIL/02%20FEBRUARY/Mtg%201/CC_021417-4-generalplan.pdf

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** Pictures from ZachNews: **

The public then got the opportunity to comment on both of the agenda items during public hearing on Agenda Item #4 (Zone Change) and Agenda Item #5 (Conditional Use Permit).

During public comments, some residents, like resident Thomas Belts, expressed their concerns over the re-zoning of this portion of land for the medical marijuana cultivation facility and the location in which the medical marijuana cultivation facility was planning to be build, being near an apartment complex and school.

Thomas Belts told members of the Needles City Council that he wants the City of Needles to stop the spot rezoning and continued to politics of old where its all about who has friends on the Needles City Council and who can get their spot rezone.

Concerns over public safety and crime at medical marijuana related places happening in big cities will occur here in their own community were also raised by resident Jared Johnson.

Jared Johnson also wants the City of Needles to stop spot rezoning and to keep medical marijuana cultivation facilities to industrial zone areas, not be place in residential area.

Later, Thomas Belts asked if there were any conflict of interest with any of the members of the Needles City Council regarding the medical marijuana cultivation facility applicant.

Thomas Belts told members of the Needles City Council that he heard that there were some members who pro-rented facilities from the people who own the land, who were seeking the zone change.

Needles City Council Members Shawn Gudmundson spoke up saying that Thomas Belts was talking about him and told Thomas Belts that this was incorrect.

As some residents raised their concerns and worries, Timothy Terral, a resident who owns 3 properties down the street from the location, told members of the Needles City Council that he had driven out to the site and walked the site where the medical marijuana cultivation facility is to be build, and said that he had no problem with the zone change or them building the facility there.

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** Picture from ZachNews: **

Applicant representative, Josh Stewart, spoke to members of the Needles City Council about the facility and explained that this building will be made better then these other facilities out in the community, including trees, nice landscaping, and adding street lights in front along Lilyhill Drive where currently there’s no street lights along this portion of the street between Interstate 40 and the Lilyhill Apartments.

Josh Stewart then spoke about the facility having a wall, fencing, cameras, and security access as well as explaining the the facility will no have lots of traffic coming in and out of the facility.

Josh Stewart said that once a month, a van will come to the facility and pick up a pallet of process marijuana to be sent out to southern California.

Not one single speck of marijuana from this facility will touch anything of this area – ever,” Josh Stewart said to members of the Needles City Council.

Mr. Matt Bates, the applicant, then spoke to members of the Needles City Council, talking about his roots in the community, the facility, and placing street lights along the street.

Because of concerns over how dark the street is in the area of the project, an agreement was made to add the 6 new street lights along the street.

Matt Bates told members of the Needles City Council that “there’s a negative stigma associated with this and in November, when it pass and they legalized it in the state of California, it really change my perspective and it really changed when the M.I.G. Group came to my property which is located on the north side and wrote me a big fat check, and I was like ‘Wow’. So they bot me out.”

Matt Bates continued talking about his property that he said he owned for 10 years and had plans for the property; saying that Josh Stewart and himself were going to build low income housing on the property 8 years ago but then was told that he couldn’t do it.

With having other designs for the property, including a trailer park design, Matt Bates said that this just came along after M.I.G. bot him out and he said to himself, “well man – we can do something up there“. 

The City is the one who decides what properties qualify. If you look at that piece of property, one side has residential and on the bottom right corner had commercial; so it was like a weird piece of property but I glad I bot it, and like I said they brought it to my attention and my phone was ringing off the hook from outsiders wanting this piece of property because it met all of the requirements, from the City’s ordinances and the State. So nobody is trying to pull the wool over anybody’s eye here; we’re not trying to slide one by. This zoning was open zoning because of all of the flood control – however it did have a mix use on it; if you look at the General Plan, it wasn’t consistence like so many of the properties throughout Needles so I think it’s a good idea to revisit that – to clean that up, but you do need funding for those types of things,” said Matt Bates.

Matt Bates ended by saying, “Needles is near and dear to my heart; we get phone calls all the time to sponsor various things. We’re here for the long haul and we’re one of the few facilities that you’ll see in town – hopefully you know. We’re not a corporation, you’re looking at 2 young guys here – they’re ordinary businessmen and here we are.”

After public comments and discussion, members of the Needles City Council voted 5-1 approving the fact finding and for Ordinance 589-AC approving general plan amendments and zone changes from multiple family residential to neighborhood commercial for two parcels between Lilyhill Drive and Interstate 40 north of the Lilyhill Apartments complex.

Needles City Council Member Tona Belt voted “No” on Agenda Item #4.

Next, members of the Needles City Council discussed Agenda Item #5 regarding the Conditional Use Permit for a medical marijuana cultivation facility.

** Agenda Item #5: **

** Agenda Item #5 Video from ZachNews on YouTube: **

Public hearing noticed to consider all evidence and testimony for or against for a Conditional Use Permit for a medical marijuana cultivation facility in the “Neighborhood Commercial” (C-1) zone, parcels APN 0186-191-50 and APN 0186-191-53; located north of the Lilly Hill apartment complex, between Lilly Hill and the I-40: Applicant Mr. Matt Bates

Approve the Findings of Facts Resolution No. 2017-12 a resolution of the City Council of the City of Needles approving a Conditional Use Permit for a Medical Marijuana Cultivation Facility located within the parcels known as APN 0186-191-50 and APN 0186-191-53.

Background: MSB Cultivation LLC, is proposing the development of a medical marijuana cultivation facility along the west side of Interstate 40 freeway at mile marker 143 immediately south of the Needles Flood Control Channel (See Attachment A). The cultivation facility will be situated within a 30,375 square foot building comprised of 18 flowering rooms, a vegetation room, a drying rack room, a cloning transplant room, a Storage and packaging room, a loading area room, a security office room, a break room, and a restroom (See Attachment E).

The facility will have an access driveway, parking lot and retention basin on approximately 1.51-acres of undeveloped, vacant land (See Attachment B-1 and B-2). The proposed facility will initially be located on portions of two parcels that are the subject of a Lot Line Adjustment (LLA) to be completed prior to development of the proposed cultivation facility. The LLA will relocate the eastern boundary of APN 0186-191-50 further east to abut the Interstate 40 right-of-way easement (See Attachment C). The intent of the LLA is to place the facility fully within APN 0186-191-50, so that a minimum distance of 1,000 feet is maintained from the nearest institution, Katie Hohstadt School, as required under Ordinance 588 AC.

As shown in Attachment D, the project’s proposed 22 foot tallelongated building (225’x135″) will be constructed of concrete block with metal roofing and will be situated next to the eastbound right-of-way of Interstate 40 at mile marker 143 and immediately southeast of the Needles Flood Control Channel. Access to the facility will be provided from Lillyhill Drive with the construction of a 24 foot wide by 650 foot long asphalt concrete paved road.

Security cameras and lighting will be mounted on all exterior Corners of the building and at door entrances (See Attachments F and G). Interior security cameras Will be utilized for each room within the building, as well as on-site security personnel, use of audible interior and exterior alarms. Entry into the building will be activated by an employee badge utilizing a “buzz in” system. The operator will implement best practices to reduce the effect of plant odors including the use of charcoal filters to be incorporated into exterior ventilation equipment.

The facility is planned to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week and will operate in shifts of three (3). The project will include onsite parking. The Site Plan currently shows seven parking stalls, one ADA handicapped stall, and one loading zone space. The applicant has estimated that a total of 40 employees could work at the site. If divided evenly among three shifts the number of employees per shift would be 13, thus additional stalls will be required. Therefore, staff has conditioned (Condition 62) that the Site Plan be revised to show an adequate number of stalls to support the maximum number of people that would be on-site at any time.

Since the January 18″ Planning Commission meeting, site plans have been revised to include a paved area for a fire truck access turn around and a sedimentation collection area that will be situated along the northwest side of the building. The applicant proposes to provide fencing at a height of 6 feet. The project will be conditioned so that the-wall and fence plans are submitted for review and approval by the Planning and Building Department, prior to development.

The plans show that the fire truck access turn around will be designed with a slope that will direct impervious runoff toward the lip of the turnaround abutting the San Bernardino County Flood Control District (SBCFCD) easement to the north. However, such an exit point for runoff will have the potential to create undercutting and pavement failure to the turnaround if erosion control measures are not included (i.e., riprap). Therefore, the City Engineer has included a condition of approval (Condition 60) that all impervious runoff from the fire truck access turn around be directed toward the proposed sedimentation collection area. In addition, the project’s sedimentation collection area does not show the location where discharge will occur. In this case, the City Engineer has included in Condition 60 that the plans shall be revised to show the location of discharge and the direction in which discharge will be directed.

The site of the facility building is located approximately 140 feet South of a designated blue line stream (Needles Flood Control Channel) within the SBCFCD easement. With direct relation to the blue line stream, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) and the Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWOCB) regulate discharge of fill into Waters of the Unites States under Section 404 and 401 of the federal Clean Water Act, respectively. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) regulates alterations to stream courses, including adjacent riparian habitat areas under Section 1600 of the California Fish and Game Code. The Needles Flood Control Channel, has the ability to flow eastward and discharge upstream runoff into the Colorado River during rain events and thus qualifies under RWOCB criteria. CDFW criteria would also apply if any development would encroach in performing alterations (i.e., grading, infill, trenching) to the channel. Therefore, the applicant has been conditioned (Condition 20) to provide a Hydrological Study if any future projects are proposed to occur within or near to the Needles Flood Control Channel.

The Hydrological Study will make the determination whether the future development will have a direct impact in altering the Channel, and if so, would be subject to additional studies as required by the Corps, RWCQB and CDFW. The applicant proposes a 7,233 cubic foot retention basin that will be Constructed onsite at the building’s southeast corner in order to contain impervious runoff during rain events. Currently, the design of the basin does not show the correct placement of the proposed 18 inch culvert and must be revised in the plans as a Condition of approval (Condition 61). Discharge from the retention basin will be directed toward two Culverts, one 36 inches and one 24 inches, that will receive and convey discharge under the I-40 Freeway. Both freeway culverts are located within the California Department of Transportation’s (CalTrans) easement as part of the I-40 Freeway and are the receiving end of upstream discharge from the project site. Any projects adjacent to CalTrans easements that would have the potential to change the amount of impervious runoff into receiving end culverts within CalTrans easements must Consult with CalTrans with full review of the project’s impact of discharge prior to development.

A public hearing was held at the January 18, 2017 Planning Commission Meeting for the Conditional Use Permit. Testimony included opposition to the project, i.e., that the proposed cultivation facility was not suitable for the surrounding residential community and that by approving the project, it would set a precedence for similar type projects. Public testimony also included positive support for the project, with statements about the importance of new jobs that the project would help Create. Testimony also included a request that screening material be installed so that properties looking down on the facility would be viewing something attractive, a recommendation was received from the Planning Commissioner to provide landscaping, with the applicant’s representative indicating that Palo Verde and Mesquite trees would be planted around the entire facility. Since the Hearing, the applicant has submitted a Conceptual Landscape Plan that shows landscaping to be provided around the entire building facility, along both sides of the project access driveway and along the project parcel abutting Lillyhill Drive (See Attachment H). The applicant will be conditioned (Condition 55) to install landscaping in matching the Conceptual Landscape Plan and to assure that the proposed plant palette will include species of trees identified in the City’s Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance.

In confirming that the “findings” had been satisfied by the applicant, concern was raised by the Planning Commissioners that the application was still not Complete, pending receipt of information from the applicant. The Planning Commission voted 5-0 to approve Resolution No. 01-18-2017-2 PC, recommending approval for the medical marijuana cultivation facility contingent on receiving the amended application information, the biological assessment information on one of the parcels, and the completion of the Tribal consultation process. All outstanding information has been received and the Tribal consultation process concluded.

Fiscal impact:

1. The 10% of gross sales of medical marijuana business tax (voter approved (2012).

2. Valuation of new buildings – added to city tax rolls.

3. NPUA – electric/water/sewer usage revenue.

4. Recurring business license and permitting fees.

5. if the new initiative passes this November, a 25% State tax – a portion of which will be passed to local government.

6. Statewide 10% sales tax, the city’s share is 1%.

Environmental Impact: This project is categorically exempt under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) under Section 15061(b)(3) of the State CEQA Guidelines. A project is considered to be exempt from CEQA if the activity is covered by the general rule that CEQA applies only to projects which have the potential for Causing a significant effect on the environment. Where it can be seen with certainty that there is no possibility that the activity in question may have a significant effect on the environment, the activity is not subject to CEQA.

The project area of disturbance involving paved road construction, grading for the facility building and retention basin, will not exceed five acres in size, but will account for approximately 1.51 acres as compared to the overall area of combined subject parcels (36 acres). Nonetheless, because the site is undeveloped and vacant, a Biological Resources Assessment and Cultural Resources Assessment were Conducted. Findings of the two assessments were negative.

Recommended Action: I make a motion to: Approve City Council Resolution 201712 Approving a Conditional Use Permit for a 30,375 square foot Medical Marijuana Cultivation Facility located within the parcels known as APN 0186-191-50 and APN 0186-191-53, with effective date of Ordinance No. 589-AC, March 29, 2017.

** Agenda Packet (Agenda Item #5): **

http://cityofneedles.com/2017%20WEBSITE%20FILE%20POSTING/1%20CITY%20COUNCIL/02%20FEBRUARY/Mtg%201/CC_021417-5-CUP.pdf

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** Pictures from ZachNews: **

After some public comments discussing the landscaping around the facility and regarding archaeological study being done, members of the Needles City Council unanimously voted to approve the approve fact finding and for Resolution 2017-12 approving a conditional use permit for a medical marijuana cultivation facility on two parcels between Lilyhill Drive and Interstate 40 north of the Lilyhill Apartments complex.

For more information regarding the Needles City Council Meetings, please contact Dale Jones in the City Clerk’s Office at the City of Needles at: 1 (760) 326-2113 Ext. 345.

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