Williams prepares for cannabis businesses

The City of Williams is making some adjustments to its design requirements to accommodate the Canna-Hub project in the business park on the east side of town.

During last week’s city council meeting, the council unanimously approved an amendment to its municipal code regarding the design standards for the Commercial Cannabis Overlay Zone, where the Canna-Hub project will be located. The ordinance, as passed, was approved by the City of Williams’ Planning Commission at a meeting earlier this month.

The city had previously created the cannabis overlay zone – a specific area of the city where commercial cannabis operations are allowed – within the Williams Business Park. According to Monica Stegall, city planner, the zoning design requirements for the cannabis overlay zone were the same as the Business Park at large. Because the project is unique, the commercial cannabis industry is so new, and the fact that some of the design standards for the Business Park will not work with the Canna-Hub project, the changes were necessary.

“Staff has worked with the applicant, and there are some of the design standards in the business park that needed to be adjusted,” Stegall said.

Among the changes to the design standards is a reduction in the open space requirement for the development – down to 12 percent from 20 percent. In order to prevent biological, environmental, and pest-related contamination of the facilities in the cannabis overlay zone, the amended ordinance also includes language geared toward “discouraging traditional landscaping,” instead favoring low- to no-water-use landscaping. Minimum parking requirements in the cannabis overlay zone were also changed and are now aligned with light manufacturing industry uses – one parking space per 750 sq. ft. of floor area.

“The zoning code currently has parking based on the use,” Stegall said. “We don’t really have parking for a commercial cannabis use, but we’ve got uses, for instance, light manufacturing industry… (and) the 1 per 750 contained in the (amended) ordinance is consistent with those types of uses.”

One of the more major changes in design requirements for the cannabis overlay zone had to do with lot, yard, and height standards. Essentially, the amended ordinance made the zoning code requirements for lot, yard, and height standards discretionary in the Commercial Cannabis Activity Overlay Zone, and subject to the approval of the city council. Specifically, it will allow the city council to waive setback requirements within the cannabis overlay zone.

“What I’ve seen in the preliminary plans for the project is that they’re proposing to put their buildings on the lot lines… there will be some big lots, and their buildings – maybe three or four buildings (will be) kind of put together… The development type is different and unique. We don’t really have that built into our zoning code as it is.”

Mayor Charles Bergson said that he felt the changes to the zoning requirements struck a harmony between the city’s planning goals and the specific needs of a cannabis business complex that promises to bring “jobs and commerce” to the City of Williams.

“Since it’s a different business and a conditional use permit, we’re responding to the business requirements for that type of business… We’ve got this request before, and we make those (changes) where we can without setting a precedent… We made some adjustments to the lot lines, the landscaping requirements – they’re concerned about its affects on their products. We understand that… We’re trying to be flexible as we go – we’re walking with them, also.” ■

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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