Council votes to keep pot dispensaries out of Claremont

Legalized marijuana is all but inevitable in California, and Claremont is preparing for it.

The city council voted unanimously to pass an urgency ordinance amending an existing section of the Claremont Municipal Code to prohibit commercial sale and delivery of marijuana within Claremont—effectively putting the kibosh on dispensaries opening within the city before Proposition 64 goes to voters on November 8.

Prop 64—also called the Control, Regulate and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA)—would immediately legalize possession, transportation, purchase, use and transfer of recreational marijuana if it passes. The act would allow Californians to grow up to six marijuana plants indoors for personal use and for marijuana delivery services and businesses to start applying for licenses in January 2018.

But the AUMA is also allowing local governments to ban marijuana businesses, regulate cultivation and ban outdoor cultivation of marijuana. Claremont is taking advantage of that provision by amending the existing code regulating medical marijuana businesses (section 9.72) by adding a ban on commercial marijuana businesses as well.

The reasons why are manifold. There is ambiguity to how commercial marijuana businesses would work. Legalization would occur immediately after Prop 64 passes, but businesses won’t be able to apply for a license until January 2018.

The city is concerned that commercial dispensaries could open illegally in Claremont because of that ambiguity, and would like to observe how Prop 64 works for other cities before making a future decision on how to properly regulate it. One of the biggest concerns is avoiding any legal costs associated with fighting those illegal dispensaries in the future.

The resolutions in no way inhibit personal marijuana use allowed under Prop 64 if they pass, Assistant City Manager Colin Tudor said.

Prop 64 permits growing of up to six plants in a personal residence and allows anyone over 21 years old to possess up to 28.5 grams or one ounce of marijuana or up to 8 grams of concentrated cannabis such as edibles.

Initially, language in the ordinances were more open to other parts of the code—a third resolution outlined a court-ordered civil penalty of $2,500 per day for any business in violation of the ordinance and placed it into section 1.2 of the code.

This notion was highlighted by a number of public commenters, including planning commission Chair Richard Rosenbluth and Vice Chair Doug Lyon, who said the language was vague enough for the city to go after more than just marijuana businesses.

“If the intent is to apply only to the marijuana part, pull it out of [Claremont Municipal Code section] 1.2, stick it into [CMC section] 9.72 and say the penalties are applicable to this chapter,” Mr. Lyon said. “That would fix that.”

The commissioners also argued that the ordinances did not go through the proper channels before they reached the council. City Manager Tony Ramos assured the commission that would happen in the future, but noted that the purpose of the urgency ordinance was “to put in safeguards to protect this community and then allow this community, if [Prop 64] passes, to have the appropriate dialogue about what they would like to do with recreational marijuana.”

City Attorney Sonia Carvalho said the ordinance was intended to apply to all parts of city code, making it easier to shut down illegal dispensaries in Claremont, especially those who can survive the $2,500 daily fine.

“It was my intent to apply broadly, and it was my intent that I have the tools necessary to close down a dispensary if one opens up in the Village,” she said.

The council agreed with commenters’ concerns about the far reach of the enforcement ordinance, and mandated a narrowing of the civil penalties to only businesses in violation of opening a commercial dispensary or delivery service within the city.

The final resolutions passed, with the council adding language that differentiated medical marijuana use from commercial marijuana use and limiting the power for civil injunctions only to the city code section dealing with marijuana regulations.

Towne and Base Line development revving up

Mr. Ramos began the city council meeting with a positive development regarding the stalled housing development on Base Line Road and Towne Avenue. The developer, William Lyon, will officially resume construction by the end of October, with signs being erected again by November and model homes to be completed by March 2017.

The news comes months after William Lyon halted construction on the Meadow Park housing development, citing market issues. For months, the development lay unfinished and abandoned as the city wrestled with the developer over the future of the project.

“As a condition of the agreement, the developer will not begin construction on any phase without guaranteeing its completion,” Mr. Ramos said during his city manager’s report. “Additionally, should the developer choose to stop at any phase, the agreement has provisions to ensure the site is maintained properly.”

In July, Mr. Ramos issued an ultimatum to the develop—either finish Meadow Park to completion or tear it all down.

“The city is very much looking forward to getting this project completed and back on track,” Mr. Ramos said.

City begins Indian Hill planning

The city also approved a request for proposals for the upcoming Indian Hill Corridor Specific Plan, a future development that will encompass the area along both sides of Indian Hill Boulevard between the railroad tracks and Arrow Highway.

The consent calendar item calls for the hiring of a consultant team to work with city staff in completing the specific plan and associated environmental review documents, according to the staff report.

The city expects to select a planning consultant by December, with drafting of the specific plan taking  place from January to November 2017.

The plans are scheduled for review and possible adoption by the council by November 2018. Two community meetings are tentatively scheduled for March and November 2017, according to the staff report.

Much of the project is based on a $418,000 grant the city received from Metro in anticipation of constructing “transit-oriented development” along the future path of the upcoming Metro Gold Line extension.

Claremont seals use of its seal

The council also passed a resolution making sure that the seal of Claremont should only be used for official city purposes.

The seal, first adopted in 1973, is an artistic representation of an avocado tree on the corner of Mountain Avenue and Foothill Boulevard. The seal will henceforth be unavailable for private and commercial uses, according to Mr. Tudor.

“There’s never been any intent of the city logo to be used for private or commercial uses, and adopting regulations will eliminate any uncertainty as to how the official city logo should be used,” Mr. Tudor said.

The city unanimously approved the resolution.

“There goes my idea of using the city logo for my pot-growing business,” Mayor Sam Pedroza joked.

The next city council meeting will take place on October 25.

—Matthew Bramlett


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