Williams City Council gets presentation on marijuana facility

Following in the footsteps of their neighbors to the east, the City of Williams is considering whether to allow a cannabis cultivation facility to be built within the city limits.

At last Wednesday’s regular meeting of the City Council, Tim McGraw, founder and CEO of Canna-Hub – a real estate company that specializes in cannabis real estate parks – made a presentation detailing the potential commercial marijuana cultivation complex, and how such a project might benefit the city.

As envisioned, the facility would be a multi-tenant, multi-use cannabis business park, built on an 80-acre parcel near the intersection of Interstate 5 and Highway 20. Initially, the complex would include 62 half-acre, indoor cannabis grow operations on the southern 40-acres of the parcel, and could expand to more than 100 over time. McGraw said that Canna-Hub would not pursue a dispensary coming to town, citing the council’s unwillingness to allow the retail sale of cannabis. The park would only be used for the cultivation and distribution of cannabis.

The park would be secure, and access to the facility would be “severely limited” to staff, public safety personnel, and regulatory officials, McGraw said.

“If Williams did want to host a site like this, from a regulation, building ordinance, zoning, security and law enforcement viewpoint, this is a much, much more progressive and wiser way to do this because everything is encapsulated,” McGraw said. “All of the cannabis business licensing, any kind of cannabis business operations, would be encapsulated in this secure cannabis use park… The idea is that this would be the only cannabis-zoned real estate within the city.”

All told, McGraw claimed that the project could bring a one-time revenue from various fees of up to $5 million to the city’s coffers over the course of development, in addition to up to $1 million in annual revenue from city-level permitting for individual growers in the park.

“The way we have it modeled out right now, it would be about $8,000 or $9,000 per year, per permit holder. Once the property was fully developed, that would bring about $1 million per year.”

That model assumes that the park will have more than 100 units, not the initial 62 individual half-acre grow operations. Completely filled, and assuming the permitting fees will be between $8,000 and $9,000, the initial 62 units would bring between $496,000 and $558,000 annually.

McGraw also estimated that the project would create between 1,000 and 1,300 jobs over the next one to three years.

“We’ve met with a lot of cities, and looked at a lot of properties, and our communication and work with Williams so far has been very positive. We feel like the location of Williams, being so close to (Interstate) 5 and (Highway) 20, and being so close to the Emerald Triangle (Trinity, Mendocino, and Humboldt), San Francisco, and Sacramento… (Williams) is a prime place to build a development like this,” McGraw said. “So we would really appreciate the consideration of the mayor, the council, and the people of Williams.”

Support, concerns, and questions aired in Hour-Long discussion following presentation

After the presentation by McGraw, council members Chuck Bergson and John Troughton expressed their support for the project.

“Given that Prop 64 passed last year, the business climate has changed in California… I support this. I think that’s what’s going to happen here. Williams is pro-business, we’re pro-jobs, and like I mentioned, the economic environment has changed with the passing of laws, and I think it’s a natural step for northern California,” Bergson said.

Troughton, who noted that he had been opposed to the state-wide legalization “for a long time” said that the project could offer the City of Williams a much needed influx of cash to address infrastructure issues. Echoing an earlier comment from City Administrator Frank Kennedy, he said that he envisioned the cannabis industry in Williams being comparable to bourbon made in Lynchburg, TN, a dry city: While Williams will produce cannabis, it still won’t allow the sale of cannabis in the city.

“Somebody is going to build this someplace, and wherever that is, they’re going to make money out of it. Their city will get healthier. You’ll be able to fix your streets, you’ll be able to fix your sidewalks” Troughton said. “The dispensary part, I know the people in town were very much against it – probably ten-to-one in the meeting we had here. But this here is going to go here, or its going to go up the highway… The use of marijuana, I’m opposed to that. But it’s here, and Williams might as well be making the money off that and put these people to work out there… and those dollars used right by the city council could be very beneficial to the city of Williams.”

After the members of the council spoke, Kennedy said that he had only been aware of the project for eight days.

“In those eight days, we’ve moved rather fast,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy asked McGraw a number of questions, including a pair that addressed the projections for jobs created by the new facility. Specifically, Kennedy asked how Canna-Hub arrived at the 1,300 job figure and what sort of training each of those jobs would entail.

McGraw said that the figure was conservative, and that on average, each half-acre lot would include an 11,000 sq. ft. building. Each such lot would employ between 10-12 employees. For 22,000 sq. ft. facilities, which would be limited in number, at least 20 people would be employed.

“Processors, for 11,000 sq. ft., would be about eight people, laboratory is also eight, and other – which is distribution and transportation, is eight to 10 also, which gets us up to that figure,” McGraw said.

He added that there would be a large variety of job types among the 1,300 projected, and they would be year-round. The lowest-level processing jobs – such as trimming – would pay between $15 and $16 per hour. Higher level processing and lab positions would be “highly skilled jobs” that would be higher paid.

“(They range) from manual, simple labor, which will still pay well, all the way up to guys with a Ph.D.,” McGraw said.

Members of the public offered a handful of comments on the project, some of which were heated.

Chris Stoots, a resident of Williams and a law enforcement officer with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, said that Canna-Hub had chosen Williams as a potential location not only for it’s location, but also because “the marijuana industry has found that it’s easy to walk on small communities,” and at one point called McGraw a “corporate thug.”

“I want to remind you that you are accountable to the citizens of this community, and 56 percent of Colusa County rejected the expansion of marijuana cultivation under Prop 64,” Stoots told the council.

After some back and forth between McGraw, members of the public, and the council, Kennedy requested that a special workshop be planned for the future so that the city could gather more information before making a decision. The council ultimately set the workshop for March 29 at 6 p.m.

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Brian Pearson is the Managing Editor & Reporter for the Williams Pioneer Review. Brian joined the Williams Pioneer Review in June 2016 and is committed to bringing hyperlocal news to its readers. A few of his projects include reporting on local government and the newly feature sports page. To contact Brian about this article, or for future articles, please email him at brian@colusacountynews.net