Councilmen Greg Ponciano, Dave Womble, and Tom Reische voted in favor of the development agreement. Josh Hill was absent, and Dave Markss recused himself due to a potential conflict of interest, citing his financial relationship with Greenceuticals’ attorney, Matthew Smith.
The development agreement has been a long time coming for Greenceuticals. They first publicly pitched their project to the council in December 2017, and indicated at that time they were eying two locations: one at 1717 Highway 20 – a property that neighbors the Colusa Assembly of God Church – and the other at the property currently tied to their project, at the corner of Bridge and Main Streets. After the company received push-back from the church’s pastor, Ken Edwards, Greenceuticals shifted their focus away from the Highway 20 location. At some point between then and February, their focus shifted to two lots at 8th and Main Streets – the site of the old Stokes Building, which currently houses Fur Fin & Feather Taxidermy. When that location fell through after an outpouring of opposition by neighboring businesses and property owners, Greenceuticals shifted their focus back to two lots at the corner of Bridge and Main Streets, which were still owned by the city. The city council sent out a Request for Proposals and solicited “bids” for projects at that site, and had two bidders respond. Ultimately, the council decided to approve the Greenceuticals project and to move forward by selling the property to the company.
Last week, the council approved the development agreement despite spoken opposition from the public – some who have been regular and staunch opponents of commercial cannabis in Colusa, and others who live near the proposed site at the corner of Bridge and Main Streets.
Bill Abel, George Graham, and Paul Lohman were among the nearby property owners who expressed concerns over the project, with topics ranging from the lack of environmental study to the effect it might have on the values of their properties. Others asked why the project – a cultivation facility – was being pushed into downtown Colusa.
Attorney Matthew Smith, appearing for the first time in a public meeting on behalf on his clients (Greenceuticals), said that it was a matter of supply – or lack thereof.
During the meeting, Smith lauded the Greenceuticals management team, and attempted to allay the concerns of the public in a question-and-answer session during the public hearing. The council was sold, and ended up approving the project. Mayor Greg Ponciano said he felt that there was a false perception that the council “was going into these things blindly.” Numerous council members had toured cultivation facilities in Washington and California, and they had “done their due diligence” in researching all of the cannabis projects, he added.
The council’s decision came on the heels of a contentious meeting of the city’s planning commission, where that body recommended the council approve the development agreement with Greenceuticals LLC in a 4-1 decision. The recommendation for approval came despite the fact that commissioners were frustrated by the lack of site-specific information included in the development agreement, and only after City Manager Jesse Cain told the commission that he “was asked by council not to let this be pushed” and to “make a decision, either yes or no, on it.” Prior to Cain’s comments, the commission was entertaining a motion to continue the item until their next meeting, which would have prevented it from moving on to the council. Any recommendation, whether for approval or denial, would have placed the development agreement in the council’s hands. They eventually voted to recommend approval. A frustrated Ken Flagor Jr., who made the motion, said that he felt the planning commission “should pass it and let the city council run with it, and do what they want to do.”
Chair Richard Selover told the city council the following day that the commission had “a gun held to our heads, saying you will approve this or else.”