Downtown Needles, CA: Needles City Council approves conditional use permits for new cannabis cultivation and distribution facilities despite opposition to downtown location.

By Zachary Lopez (ZachNews):

Source: City of Needles (Information):

Downtown Needles, California: Members of the Needles City Council approved conditional use permits for a new cannabis cultivation and distribution facilities despite opposition to the downtown location.

Live Broadcast By ZachNews (Skip to 40:00 for Agenda Items #3 and #4):

The vote on the conditional use permits for a new cannabis cultivation and distribution facilities occurred during the regular meeting of the Needles City Council and Needles Public Utility Authority that was held on Tuesday, September 28th, 2021, which you can watch at ZachNews on Facebook.

Regarding the new cannabis cultivation facility, documents from the City of Needles say the applicant Albert Sekoian, representative for Califa Harvest LLC, is proposing tenant improvements and expansion to an existing building to be increased in building footprint from 2,800 square feet to 4,700 square feet (Phase 1) and proposing for the construction of a 10,800 square foot building (Phase 2) for the purpose of cannabis cultivation. The project site is situated on a 0.82-acre lot located at 1150 West Broadway Street, also known as APN 0186-093-18-0000.

The project is surrounded by a combination of vacant lots and residences to the northwest, residences to the northeast, a vacant lot with a small metal garage to the southeast, and commercial uses and a residence to the southwest. The project is located within the General Commercial (GC) land use designation and within the General Commercial (C-2) zoning designation. Both Building Cl and Building C2 would both contain cultivation operational activities, however, Building C2 would serve for the facility’s distribution activities.

Proposed Site Plan, Phase 1 development would involve tenant improvements and expansion to an existing single-story building (Building C1) located at the corner of I-Street and Broadway Street. The building would be expanded from 2,800 square feet to 4,700 square feet. Phase 2 development would involve the construction of a new 10,800 square foot single-story building (Building C2) and would be separated by approximately 16.53 feet of common open space from Building C1.

Building C1 would contain eight (8) flower rooms, an office, dry room, vegetating room, a mother vegetating room, a water room, a trim room, a break room with bathroom and an office. Building C2 would consist of nine (9) flower rooms, a vegetating/cloning/mother room, two (2) dry rooms, a dry/vegetative mother room, a trim room , a water room, two (2) bathrooms, an entrance and sanitizing room, a break room and an office. The project would provide two (2) trash enclosures and a total of 13 parking stalls including two (2) ADA stalls.

Building C1 and Building C2 would be constructed with one (1) roll-up door for Building C2 and pedestrian doors for both buildings. Exterior finishes and wall faces would be of earth-tone (Dun Edwards Filter Ray, Arrow Rock Metal Fringe) with Indian Creek Slate tile.

Regarding the new cannabis distribution facility, documents from the City of Needles say the applicant Albert Sekoian, representative for Califa Harvest LLC, is proposing the construction of a 10,800 square foot building (Building C2) to house a 258 sq. ft. Cannabis Distribution Facility, as well as a Cannabis Cultivation Facility, discussed as a separate CUP submittal. The project site is situated on a 0.82-acre lot located at 1150 West Broadway Street, also known as APN 0186-093-18-0000 (See Attachment A, Project Location). The project is surrounded by a combination of vacant lots and residences to the northwest, residences to the northeast, a vacant lot with a small metal garage to the southeast, and commercial uses and a residence to the southwest. The project is located within the General Commercial (GC) land use designation and within the General Commercial (C-2) zoning designation. Both Building C 1 and Building C2 would both contain cultivation operational activities, however, Building C2 would serve for the facility’s distribution activities.

Site Plan shows the 120’x 90′, 10,800 square foot Building that includes the 258 sq. ft. Cannabis Distribution Facility (Building C2). In accordance with requirements for secure fencing at the cannabis facilities (i.e. distribution, cultivation, testing) and as identified in the Site Plan, a six (6) foot tall split face block wall will be constructed along the southeast boundary and with six (6) foot tall wrought iron fencing to be installed along the remaining property perimeter boundaries (southwest, northwest and northeast). Secured access onto the site would be provided by one (1) 20-foot wide sliding gate along Broadway, and by one (1) 24-foot wide sliding gate off of the alley street. Both entries will have secured keypad entries posted next to each gate.

Floor Plan shows the location of the 258 square foot Distribution and Trimming Room that provides a secured cage storage to be located within the northern corner building footprint of Building C2 next to the Fire Room. Entry into the facility will be from separate security access doorway from within the interior hallway. Harvested cannabis from the Buildings Cl and C2 would be delivered to, sorted and packaged within the Distribution Facility.

The Cannabis Distribution Facility will employ 3 full-time employees. The facility’s hours of operation are proposed to be 24-hours, seven days a week. For security, cameras would be mounted in all corners of the 258 sq. ft. facility.

*** Agenda Packet for Agenda Items #3 and #4 (Unless otherwise noted, all downloadable agenda packets that are posted here are in a PDF file format so please make sure to have a PDF file reader or viewer): ***

cc-03-092821-1150 W Broadway distribution

cc-04-092821-1150 W Broadway cult

cc-04-092821-attachments

The location of the new cannabis cultivation and distribution facilities is on the site of the old Needles Four Seasons Nursery at 1150 West Broadway between H Street and I Street before closing years ago, and since closing down, the property was looked into by other cannabis related industries but for the most part has sat vacant and undeveloped with vegetation overgrowth on the property, some trash blown onto the property and a tree falling over during a past microburst.

During discussions regarding the new cannabis cultivation and distribution facilities, members of the Needles City Council spoke on a variety of topics, ranging from the fencing, the back alleyway, landscaping and the design as well as the style and paint of the buildings.

Needles City Council Member Ellen Campbell asked about the trees in front of the property, and if they were going to be removed and be saved.

The applicant Albert Sekoian said to the members of the Needles City Council that they will not be touching the trees in the front of the property as those trees are very old and beautiful, and instead of going to try to bring them back to life.

Needles City Council Member Zachery Longacres spoke about improving the back alleyway along the property just like the alleyway near a cannabis cultivation off I Street got an upgraded; they cemented that alleyway, and asked if this alleyway is going to be upgraded or be left as is.

The applicant Albert Sekoian said that there are no plans at this moment to upgrade the back alleyway.

Needles Planning Commission Chair Member Linda Kidd spoke afterwards saying that to try to accommodate the business – to make it affordable for them. and that he met all the other conditions, and to put in the condition to redoing the alleyway she thinks that is over the top; and that there’s not another alleyway in town has been upgraded.

Needles Planning Commission Chair Member Linda Kidd added that the applicant is going to be redoing the sidewalks, and to be business-friendly I think you have to try to accommodate within reasons of expenses so just to consider that.

Needles Planning Commission Chair Member Linda Kidd continued saying that she thinks the applicant is going to do great job of cleaning up that corner, and that we’ve been waiting a long time, and I think this is a real opportunity to move forward with this.

But then the real big topic of debate came up regarding to the location of the cannabis facilities being in downtown, a hot-button issue in the community for years.

Needles City Council Member Tona Belt spoke about her position on this item, saying that this is downtown and I’m not in favor of this at all.

Needles City Council Member Tona Belt said that it’s great and I understand – it’s business coming into town – I understand that thought, but no other business cannot afford to come into this area.

Needles City Council Member Tona Belt added that we’re always say there’s nothing else lined up – yep I get it and I completely understand that, but in order to maintain the community I feel this area is off limits.

Needles City Council Member Donald Wade Evans II spoke next saying that before getting onto the Needles City Council, he heard everybody wanting a downtown district, and that he knows the general plan is not completed yet, but he would complete the General Plan and have something in there where downtown is – on Broadway from whatever street to whatever street decided –  the community has been wanting this for years now and nothing has been done, when are we going to complete the General Plan?

Needles City Council Member Donald Wade Evans II said that he don’t want to take away any business, but like Needles City Council Member Tona Belt said until we do something there’s not another business coming to this area – they can’t afford it; there’s no way.

Needles City Council Member Kirsten Merritt spoke afterwards saying that she feels the same way; their position on this agenda item.

Needles City Council Member Kirsten Merritt said that everybody who has spoken feels about this; saying we’re getting to the point where a lot of people in the community are saying to me “how many can we have,” and as it stands we have no limits and that I think – and regardless if it’s this one or any other one – we’re getting it… when can we…

In the past, people in the community have stated that they want the General Plan for the City of Needles be completed, especially so that downtown can be limited to non-cannabis uses; only having retail and mixed-use development with retail and residential to be allowed in the downtown area.

Needles City Council Member Kirsten Merritt then said that completing the General Plan is what we need to do; and asked if it has been stated before I was on council about limiting downtown, which some members shook their head ‘No.’

Needles City Manager Rick Daniels then spoke about the General Plan, saying that the housing element has been completed, and the consultants are now working on the transportation element and the land use element, and pretty soon within the next month to 6 weeks there will be some community meetings to help identify what are the community’s goals are for different parts of town.

Needles City Manager Rick Daniels said by 6 months, the council should have a General Plan that could perform that expectation.

Needles City Manager Rick Daniels added that he remembered that conversation and we included within the develop draft on the land use element that the council wants downtown preserve, and we just need the question to the council how big is downtown; where you wanted it to be.

Public appearance regarding the new cannabis cultivation and distribution facilities was next and several people spoke.

Sharon from Needles Flower Refinery Inc. (located at the old Taco Bell site) spoke during public appearance, acknowledging what the Needles Planning Commission Chair Member Linda Kidd said about it would be a missed opportunity, and that it doesn’t matter what were doing inside the building.

Sharon expressed that this is going to put… something pretty on this street that looks beautiful and makes your city vibrant; no one is gonna even know really what’s going on in there because we don’t allow signage and different things – it’s a building.

Sharon said it’s a misstep in the cities part when we’re saying “Oh, we don’t want that kind of business,” because this happened to her with the old Taco Bell when I… “Oh we want another restaurant there,” but we pay tons of money for these properties because when we make a cannabis zone, it increased the prices.

Sharon then spoke about the procedures that took place to getting her facility where it is today; from locating has designated site that was allowed, to going to Planning Commission and getting their approvals; spending lots of time and money, and while meeting the 7 criterias, and having to come here and be nervous – afraid to bring more people here or develop businesses.

Sharon then said that the end of the day, no one gets to see what’s going on inside so who cares what’s inside.

Marianne from the Needles Regional Museum later spoke during public appearance saying that she I seen the town in many different times, and I’m personally against this cultivation at this place on Broadway, and basically because it’s in downtown.

Marianne said we did – the Needles Regional Museum – recently have looked into other places to build another museum and we did call on this actual partial, and at that time it was in between being sold and not sold; so as far as to say no one else will ever purchase this – I’m not saying that we could because right now I don’t think we can afford to with all the prices as they are – but we did inquire about this property.

After over 30 minutes of discussions and debate members of the Needles City Council put the agenda item to a vote on the new cannabis cultivation and distribution facilities.

For the new cannabis cultivation facility, members of the Needles City Council voted 3-3, leading the Needles City Mayor Jeff Williams to break the tie voting in favor of the conditional use permits for a new cannabis cultivation facility.

Needles City Council Members Donald Wade Evans, Tona Belt and Zachery Longacres voted “No” well the remaining Needles City Council Members voted “Yes” for the new cannabis cultivation facility.

For the new cannabis distribution facility, members of the Needles City Council voted 3-3, leading the Needles City Mayor Jeff Williams to break the tie voting in favor of the conditional use permits for a new cannabis distribution facility.

Needles City Council Members Donald Wade Evans, Tona Belt and Zachery Longacres voted “No” well the remaining Needles City Council Members voted “Yes” for the new cannabis distribution facility.

For more information, please contact Dale Jones, City Clerk at the City of Needles at: 1 (760) 326-2113.

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