During the appeal, which included lengthy public comment and a clarification period, the council was faced with four options: reverse the planning commission’s decision, modify the decision, or affirm the decision in whole or in part. The council could also vote to give the decision back to the planning commission.

Whether or not it will eventually house a cannabis-related business, the path was cleared last week for a building at 1119 Ream Avenue to be subdivided.

The Mount Shasta City Council during a special meeting on Dec. 16 voted 3-1 to affirm the planning commission’s decision to allow a lot split in the building where Stoneway Crossfit is currently located.

During the appeal, which included lengthy public comment and a clarification period, the council was faced with four options: reverse the planning commission’s decision, modify the decision, or affirm the decision in whole or in part. The council could also vote to give the decision back to the planning commission.

Those who filed the appeal on behalf of the nearby “I AM” School and Sisson School said they are concerned with the building potentially being used for cannabis production and the dangers they believe this presents to Mount Shasta’s youth.

Background

The issues with this particular space on Ream Avenue were sparked in March 2019 after the Mount Shasta City Council voted 3-1 to amend an ordinance to shrink the cannabis buffer zone from the state mandated 600 feet to 450 feet.

The Keep Cannabis Away from Kids campaign and others in the community gathered enough referendum signatures to force the council to reconsider the changes or place the issue on the ballot, and the buffer was reverted back to 600 feet.

The owner of the Ream Ave. building, Reny Townsend, purchased the building a few years ago and, according to Mount Shasta City Planner Juliana Lucchesi in a post meeting interview, “didn’t know there was a school on Siskiyou Avenue” which interfered with his plans to expand Jefferson Soul.

According to Lucchesi, the “I AM” School wasn’t protected by a buffer until 2017 when the state changed regulations. Previously, established “sensitive use” buffer zones only listed specific schools within the soft-industrial zones, she explained.

As a solution to the problems presented by the buffer zone, Townsend suggested splitting and subdividing the building, so there would be more space in between the “I AM” School and the potential cannabis business.

The arguments

Those who oppose subdividing the building as a solution had several arguments as to why it’s unacceptable. They questioned the council’s posting of meetings regarding the issue, suggesting they may have violeted the Brown Act. They cited the planning commission’s approval of a CEQA class 1 exemption status, and said there were “unusual circumstances,” in relation to the project.

According to Lucchesi, “when we’re reviewing a parcel map in sections for subdivisions with four parcels or less, the things we take into account are: does the parcel split meet zoning code standards? Does it meet general land use standards? And, also does it meet state subdivision map act? Use is not a factor in that.”

There were also accusations of an “unconscious bias” within the city council. Members of the public insinuated that if the city moves forward with the lot split and allows a cannabis business there, funds generated by the business will be used to pay for the sale of revenue bonds recently sold as part of the solar project to fund the waste water treatment project, and ultimately pay for upgrades for Crystal Geyser’s influx.

Lucchesi clarified that the wastewater updates are a state mandated and that Crystal Geyser is not involved. Lucchesi also noted that while the city does have a cannabis tax, it is not enough to pay back the bonds.

Council member Barbara Wagner also provided clarification on the tax subject, stating that “the cannabis tax goes into the general fund, so it is discretionary funding that we can use and spend as we need to ... whereas the wastewater treatment fund is specific utility, sewer and water that is designated for that, and has to be used for the plant.”

Townsend reiterated that he wants to provide growth within the city.

“We have the best intentions, we want to promote sustainable growth, keep it legal, make jobs and contribute to the community.” Townsend ended with “whatever happens, I understand.”

The vote

Councilor John Stackfleth moved to approve the appeal and for the planning commission’s decision to be rejected and sent back to them. There was no second vote.

Wagner moved to affirm the planning commission’s decision and issue the parcel split with conditions stated in the planning report. She said the planning commission met all necessary criteria to allow the lot split.

Redmond seconded Wagner’s motion.

The 3-1 approval was determined in a roll call vote, with Stackfleth being the sole no. Councilor Paul Engstrom wasn’t present, as he recused himself from the proceedings due a conflict of interest with the building’s original real estate transaction.

The decision clears the way for Townsend to begin subdividing the building.