A total of seven cannabis-related projects are in various stages of permitting or development, and two are currently operating in the City of Colusa.
Painted in the broadest of strokes, that was the general overview on cannabis projects in Colusa, as explained to a standing-room-only crowd gathered at city hall for last week’s meeting of the Colusa City Council. The item was placed on the agenda for last week’s meeting at the request of Mayor Greg Ponciano.
“Each project that comes to us goes through a process,” Ponciano said. “It goes through, typically, a presentation at council level, and then it goes through public hearings at the planning commission level, it comes back to the council for public hearings. In almost every instance, at the eleventh hour, we get phone calls that, ‘I didn’t know what was going on. What’s going on with this?’ I thought this is just another opportunity to throw something on the agenda and give the public a time to talk a little bit… What we’re mainly trying to do is listen to what anybody has to say.”
Jesse Cain, city manager, said that a total of four projects – including Cultivation Technologies Inc., Green Leaf Processors, Big Moon Sky, and Golden Roots Nursery – had gone through the Development Agreement process, and had been issued development agreements – which are “strictly a financial agreement mechanism… the City of Colusa and property owner enter into for a revenue stream.” In each case, Cain said, the agreements have been for a period of 10 years, for 3-percent of gross whole sales, which he said gives the city long-term financial stability. As Ponciano alluded to, each development agreement is approved by ordinance – which requires planning commission action, as well as a first and second reading at the city council level for a total of three public hearings.
Only two of those projects – Big Moon Sky and Green Leaf Processors – had obtained regulatory and special use permits from the city (which establish in greater detail the rules and regulations that the city puts in place for each project), and both of those businesses were operational, Cain said. Golden Roots Nursery, Cain added, would be seeking regulatory and special use permits during a public hearing at the city council meeting on March 20.
“There’s still a few month process to get (Golden Roots Nursery) up and going,” Cain said.
Cain said that while the city has a total of seven cannabis projects in the works, that didn’t necessarily mean that all of them would come to fruition.
“It takes a long process for these guys to get up and going, a lot of capital, a lot of stuff that’s got to be invested, so it’s not like overnight,” Cain said. “So, we’ve got seven up and going… At the end of the day, we could potentially end up with seven, but odds are it’s not likely.”
Cain said that while the council had not established a limit on the number of cannabis businesses that were going to be allowed in the city, he personally felt they had enough “irons in the fire” with the projects currently in the works.
“In order to move forward with the project, it would really have to impress everybody,” Cain said. “That’s my personal opinion, but I think council feels that way too… Not saying that is not going to happen – not saying that it will or it won’t, but that’s just my personal opinion.”
During the period of public comment, city residents reiterated concerns over allowing cannabis uses in the downtown area, demolishing a building of local historical significance to build a cannabis cultivation facility, and the lack of environmental review for any of the seven projects. Offering a fresh perspective was Paul Santinelli, owner of the Tap Room in downtown Colusa, who questioned whether the development agreements with the various cannabis companies would ultimately measure out to a net-positive for the city’s budget. He noted that the companies would not be operating at full efficiency until halfway into the 10-year term of the agreement – a point that City Manager Cain conceded. Absent a third-party study on cannabis businesses that delves into potential impacts to city services, infrastructure, groundwater treatment and waste, Santinelli suggested that the city council could unknowingly be setting the city up to lose money over the 10-year terms – especially in the first five years, before the businesses are operating at full efficiency.
“You are the fiduciaries of the city,” Santinelli said. “We can sit here and oppose cannabis, and we can sit here and be pro-cannabis, but when it really comes down to it, it’s dollars and cents. And if you’re looking at something that is forward-looking for 3-percent, but it’s going to cost us 6-percent, we all lose. I want to know how you guys are going to fix that.”