Downtown Needles, CA: Needles Planning Commission approves conditional use permit for retail cannabis business despite anger opposition from nearby residents regarding cannabis and downtown location.

By: Zachary Lopez (ZachNews):

Source: City of Needles (Information and Agenda Packet):

Downtown Needles, California: Members of the Needles Planning Commission approved a conditional use permit for a retail cannabis business despite anger from local residence regarding downtown location.

Live Broadcast By ZachNews (Skip to 3:38 for New Business Agenda Item #6):

The decision by members of the Needles Planning Commission occurred during the adjourned regular meeting of the Needles Planning Commission that was held on Wednesday, October 20th, 2021, which you can watch at ZachNews on Facebook.

Documents from the City of Needles say the Applicant has applied for a Conditional Use Permit for a Retail Cannabis Business totaling 1,824 Sq. Ft. – 1,194 Sq. Ft. Tenant Improvements to an existing building. – 630 Sq. Ft. garage for secure storage.

The project is situated on two .016-acre lots, to be merged, and is located within the General Commercial (GC) land use designation and within the (C-2) General Commercial zone.

Project will employ 4 staff personnel (2 FT and 2 PT) and would operate from 10:00am to 6:00pm, 7 days per week. Adequate parking is located at the site which includes 10 parking stalls.

Site is also located 150 ft. from a Needles Area Transit (N.A.T.) bus stop.

Added conditions include the applicant must use asphalt or concrete for driving and parking surfaces per City Standards, the Applicant shall record a lot merge combining the two .16 acre parcels prior to receiving a Certificate of Occupancy for the retail business, and the applicant require installation of landscaping, a new driveway, sidewalk, curb and gutter off Front Street.

The recommended action to members of the Needles Planning Commission was to approve Resolution No 10-20-2021 PC Recommending Approval for a Conditional Use Permit of a Retail Cannabis Business, Located in the C-2 (General Commercial) Zone, at 1312 Broadway Street, also known as APN 0185-157-02-0000 and 1315 Front St., also known as 0185-157-12-0000.

*** Agenda Packet for New Business Agenda Item #6 (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): ***

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Before discussions, City of Needles Director of Development Services Patrick Martinez presented the PowerPoint presentation to members of the Needles Planning Commission.

During discussions, members of the Needles Planning Commission spoke about driveway access to the Retail Cannabis Business as well as what kind of landscape will be planted on the property and what color the building will be when the building is in use.

Needles Planning Commissioner Kevin Ostby asked about a privacy driveway found on the east side of the property from the main driveway on the west side, especially for the turning radius of delivery vehicles and trucks using privacy driveway.

City of Needles Building Official and City Engineer Alberto Paiva was present, and spoke about the privacy driveway and using that for delivery vehicles and trucks, recommending to use the main driveway instead of the privacy driveway due to concerns over the turning radius of delivery vehicles and trucks.

Discussions from commissioners of maybe installing safety signage for exiting vehicles of pedestrian crossing along the walkway and sideway.

Needles Planning Commissioner Bob Rath asked City of Needles Director of Development Services Patrick Martinez about the zoning of the property in which the Retail Cannabis Business is being proposed and where’s the nearest Residential Zone.

City of Needles Director of Development Services Patrick Martinez showed a zoning map from the City of Needles; which shows the area is General Commercial Zone (Green) which is specifically set aside for commercial businesses; and the surrounding zones being Single, Two and Multiple Family Residential Zone (Purple) which includes just south of Army Road, south of Interstate 40 near L Street, and around North K Street; Commercial, Residential and Resort Zone (Neon Pink) which includes the River Edge Golf Course; Light Manufacturing (Yellow) which includes the railroad yard for the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway and Public Facilities (Red) which includes the El Garces Train Depot, Needles High School and Katie Hohstadt Elementary School.

*** City of Needles Zoning Map (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): ***

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As public comments began, nearby residence spoke over the phone in opposition to the proposed retail cannabis business in the downtown area; the tearful, anger and frustrations can be heard over the phone of how much they’re against another cannabis in their area.

Darla Walters asked on the teleconference call about the email that was sent out, and do they read them out, which Commission Chairperson Linda Kidd said, “No” which Darla asked “Why not?”

Commission Chairperson Linda Kidd said, “Well… you can read it if you like Darla,” which Darla said, “I’ll get too choked up.”

This is when her husband Marc Walters spoke on the teleconference call, saying “Why aren’t they read at the meeting? The board don’t review any of the opposition to this… any input?”

Emotions increased when emails from those against the proposed retail cannabis business weren’t received and read publicly during the meeting.

Commission Chairperson Linda Kidd said, “We usually get copies of any of the public’s comments, but we don’t necessarily read them because it’s time consuming. But so do we have her letter?”

Cindy Semione, Secretary to the Board, said to Commission Chairperson Linda Kidd, “No, they just sent it to…” which Marc Walters said, “What’s time consuming is listening to you people talk about how people are gonna get in there to buy their drugs, and you’re not listening the people who are opposing it.”

Commission Chairperson Linda Kidd said, “Okay… well you’re welcome to…” which Marc Walters interrupted saying, “I adamantly opposed to anymore of these cannabis sales, especially around my property.”

Darla Walters then spoke them owning a property along J Street and Broadway, and said that “those lots are zoned commercial and residential… all the way around that piece of property; and all of those homes are being move in as residential properties.”

Darla Walters then mentioned an Airbnb located next door to property, staying that “they have small children – they come and stay there.”

Darla Walters then mentioned her speaking to other property owners, saying that “they are all opposed of cannabis coming in behind them too. Rita Chavez… on J Street, her property backs right up to it. It’s not just commercial,” but Needles Planning Commissioner Bob Rath said, “It’s zoned commercial,” and Needles Planning Commissioner Kevin Ostby adding, “Both uses are allowed.”

Well public comments and debate continued, Needles City Manager Rick Daniels is seen talking to Patrick and Cindy about the emails, and soon after an efforted to get those emails in front of the board immediately.

A few minutes later, those email said to be in opposition to the proposed retail cannabis business were in front of commissioners via computer and printed copies.

The latest opposition by local residents comes after members of the Needles City Council on Tuesday, September 28th, 2021 approved a conditional use permits for new cannabis cultivation and distribution facilities despite opposition to the downtown location.

For years, the issue over how many more cannabis industries and retails does the City of Needles need and if cannabis industries and retails should or should not be allowed in the downtown area has been a big topic of heated debate, with residents wanting more non-cannabis businesses to come into the community well the City of Needles talk about the revenue coming into the community that is being used to help fix important infrastructure such as roads and waterlines.

But all agree that the General Plan for the City of Needles needs to be updated and completed, which community meetings are going to be held in November 2021; which the committee can decide where the downtown area is and what they want to be build in those areas.

After public comments as well as more discussions and debate, the motion to approve Resolution No 10-20-2021 PC for a Conditional Use Permit for a Retail Cannabis Business, located in the C-2 General Commercial Zone, at 1312 Broadway Street, also known as APN 0185-157-02-0000 and 1315 Front Street, also known as 0185-157-12-0000, with conditions stated by Commissioner Barbara Beard of installation of a security gate where the plans indicate that there is a privacy driveway beginning facing Broadway as you’re facing north – standing on the street facing the house – to the right of the house; and that would be a security gate for private use only; by the owner and staff, and delegated by whoever they wish; exit can be accomplished by turnaround if they can but can also be accomplished by crossing where the pedestrians are coming into the building from the parking lot facing Front Street – with the appropriate warning signs.

But that first vote was 3-2 which met the motion didn’t pass, and so then Commissioner Bob Rath then made the same earlier motion, but adding a privacy fence along the property line from Broadway to Front, only on the side of the two residences (along the east side of the property only).

On the second vote, members of the Needles Planning Commission unanimously voted the motion with the added conditions including the privacy fence.

The agenda item will go next in front of the Needles City Council for discussion, public input and possible action vote.

For more information, please contact Cindy Semione, Secretary to the Board, at 1 (760) 326-2113 Ext 327.

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