Wednesday, April 21, 2021

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Public hearing on new Colusa pot operation continued 

The Colusa City Council continued a public hearing on a proposed cannabis packaging business in the city’s historic downtown until the two newly elected council members were seated. 

At their Dec. 1 meeting, the City Council were initially split 2-2 on allowing Zapata Brothers Enterprises to occupy 208 and 210 6th St., until Mayor Josh Hill broke the tie, agreeing to wait until Dec. 15 for a typographical correction to be made on the developer agreement as to the type of manufacturing permit the Zapata brothers would hold for the operation. 

Councilman Tom Reische and outgoing Councilman Brent Nobles voted to approve the operation as presented, but Councilman Greg Ponciano and outgoing Councilman Dave Markss said allowing another marijuna business in the city’s core would violate the spirit of the tax share agreement the city just signed with Colusa County for the annexation of Colusa Industrial Properties into Colusa city limits.  

The Colusa County Board of Supervisors were first to sign the agreement, acknowledging the $43,000 annual revenue loss to the county would be worth it if the City Council embraced the cannabis industry as a source of revenue out of the downtown and in a more suitable industrial location. 

“I honestly feel that the ink is not even dry on that agreement, and it’s a really bad look for the city and would strain our agreement with the county to now go back on that just a month later,” Ponciano said. 

The proposed business is a companion operation to Zapata’s Bud Bros., a non-storefront retail operation on Main Street, which distributes ready-for-use cannabis products via direct sale and delivery, since the city does not yet allow walk-in retail sales of marijuana. 

The Zapata brothers plan to move raw cannabis into the two buildings on 6th Street in order to repackage and label it for distribution. They plan no other growing or processing operations and have promised to have tight security and an odor mitigation plan to avoid being a nuisance to their neighbors. 

While the building was previously used by the now defunct Big Moon Sky to process marijuana, Ponciano and Markks said at their Dec. 1 meeting that they were not eager to put marijuana operations into prime storefront locations again after the often contentious 18 months of negotiations with Supervisors Kent Boes and Gary Evans, whose primary focus was getting marijuana operations away from the historic Colusa County Courthouse and county offices. 

The 6th Street buildings the Zapatas would occupy are across the street from the courthouse and one block from the Colusa County District Attorney’s and County Counsel’s offices. 

The operation would also be located in the same block as the Colusa Police Department and is next door to a historic landmark, The Will S. Green House, home to Colusa’s founder (1832-1905), the longtime editor and publisher of the Colusa Sun newspaper, which occupied 208 6th St., even long after it merged with the Colusa Times and Colusa Herald newspapers in the 20th century. 

Ponciano and Markss believes the city, in negotiations, promised that all cannabis activity would be pushed out to CIP. 

Mayor Hill, who did not sit on the negotiation committee, said he believed the agreement with the county was that only growing and extracting operations would be moved to CIP. However, Hill did agree that allowing weed back into downtown storefronts created another problem – and not just a potential problem with the smell. 

Hill led a Zoom campaign over the summer getting people excited about revitalizing the downtown, and promoted putting the city’s economic development consultant on staff full time for just such a purpose, with a lucrative salary and benefit package to match. He also signed onto plans to develop a marina on the river, with direct access to a downtown filled with vibrant, well-lit, and inviting storefronts. 

For security, Marinuana businesses are intentionally blighted and dark, with blocked windows and secretive comings and goings out the back door. They do, however, put 3 percent of their gross revenue into city coffers. 

“These are difficult decisions,” Hill said, before agreeing to continue the public hearing, the first step in a multi-step process, until the next meeting. 

Meanwhile the city is and has taken public comments via email, and will take public comment until 4 PM on Dec. 15. 

“I fully support the economic development of our downtown corridor and generating additional tax revenue, but projects need to be done in a responsible manner that is consistent with the downtown revitalization objectives that do not generate an eyesore or odor nuisance to the residents,” said Julie Garofalo, in her Dec. 1 statement. “I am urging the council to decline Zapata Brothers Enterprises’ proposal, and to recommend that the applicant search other vacant property within the city limits that would be better suited for this industrial, non-family friendly and non-storefront type of business.”

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