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Cannabis Moratorium Deadline Curtailed
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Riverbank City Manager Sean Scully addresses members of the audience during the council’s deliberations on its Moratorium for new Cannabis Dispensaries in town. After several split votes, a decision to reduce the ban on new applications was reached. Ric McGinnis/The News

The Riverbank City Council reconsidered its recent decision on the ordinance continuing a Moratorium on Cannabis Dispensaries within city limits at its Feb. 26 meeting. The issue was set for a public hearing then a choice of one of four possible actions affecting the city’s issuing additional permits for sales or cultivation of cannabis in town.

The council had established the moratorium recently, on Jan. 8, approving a final one year extension. At the time, the council reasoned that it had about nine months of data from Flavors, a dispensary on Patterson Road, near Oakdale Road, but a newer business, Riverbank Wellness, had only been open about a week, according to City Manager Sean Scully’s report.

He reminded the council that it had decided that another year “would be a good test for impacts now that both businesses were open and staff was directed to continue to observe and gather data,” he said. No public comments were given during this item.

But, he said, “the business owners of Elevations, the applicants for a proposed dispensary which has been on hold during the previous moratorium period, attended the regular City Council meeting of Feb. 12, and spoke during public comment. The speakers expressed disappointment that the moratorium had been extended an additional year and shared with the Council the amount of time, energy, and resources they spend nearly every day in Riverbank.”

Scully pointed out that “since the Council is unable to discuss matters that are not agendized but are brought up during general public comment, the Council was unable to ask questions or respond to the public comment on this item.”

But during City Council comments later that night, some suggestions were made that the item should be agendized for discussion. It is important for Council to note, he said, that the consideration of this item was not a consideration of any proposal by Elevations for a new dispensary, the consideration is only relating to whether or not additional retail applications could be considered or whether the moratorium will remain in place.

“Any future proposal by Elevations would need to go through the normal planning process required under the code,” he pointed out.

The public hearing that was held last week addressing this reconsideration brought out information on several pending proposals, but Scully reminded the council that they could only consider whether to make changes in the policy, not consider specific proposals.

He said the council had four options before it:

Allow the existing 1-year moratorium to continue and to expire on Jan. 23, 2020;

Reduce the existing 1-year moratorium to six (6) months and allow it to expire on July 23, 2019;

Cause the existing 1-year moratorium to expire immediately, on Feb. 26, 2019; or

Make the existing moratorium permanent and direct staff to return with an ordinance amending Riverbank Municipal Code Section 120 Cannabis Regulations.

Scully noted that, “if option 2, 3, or 4 are chosen, Council will need to rescind the original moratorium resolution passed on Jan. 8.”

In addition, he told the council, that, according to state laws, this would be the last time they would be able to extend the moratorium, if that’s what they wanted to do.

After the public hearing last week, the council had to take several votes on the matter before finally getting one to pass.

The first attempt was to pass option one, allowing the resolution to continue, as worded, until next January. It failed 3-2, with council members Uribe, Barber-Martinez and Mayor O’Brien voting no, Campbell and Fosi voting for.

Next came option three, canceling the moratorium effective immediately. That failed, 4-1, with Uribe the only one in favor.

The motion to consider option four, making the current moratorium permanent, failed for lack of a second.

Finally, the council took up the second option, shrinking the existing moratorium to just six months, set to expire on July 23, 2019. That passed, 3-2, with Campbell, Uribe and Mayor O’Brien in favor, Fosi and Barber-Martinez against.

The resulting resolution will be worded to rescind the January wording of the law, according to City Clerk Annabel Aguilar.


Interim Budgets Passed

Earlier in the meeting, the council received presentations on the Mid-Year Budget Review, both for the City as well as the Local Redevelopment Agency, and approved a few minor adjustments in them.

The city’s General Fund Budget is now expected to reach $9.7 million, with an expected reserve of $2.5 million, or 25 percent, with a surplus of $179, 400.

For the LRA, the budget is $9.9 million. LRA funds are generated from grants, leasing revenue and payments from the Army for operations and maintenance of the former Riverbank Army Ammunition Plant. None of the city’s General Fund monies are used to operate the agency or for upkeep of the Riverbank Industrial Complex. By agreement with the Army, all revenues from the site must be reinvested in the property and used for the protection, repair, operation and maintenance of the facilities.