Staff recommends that the Planning Commission adopt Resolution No. 020P-011 with conditions approving application No. CUP 20-04 for a Commercial Cannabis Outdoor Cultivation Facility to be located a 185 W. Gale Ave.
On August 27, 2020, the Community Development Department received a Conditional Use Permit application for a phased Commercial Cannabis Outdoor Cultivation Operation at 185 W. Gale Ave. The development includes the cultivation of commercial cannabis outdoors (in hoop houses and green houses) on approximately 13 acres, the renovation of several existing accessory buildings for drying and curing, onsite improvements (fencing, security, walkways, ADA improvements), construction of greenhouse structures and planting of cannabis plants.
Conditional Use Permit Application
In accordance with Section 9-5.128(f) of the Coalinga Planning and Zoning Code related to Commercial Cannabis operations, prior to, or concurrently with, applying for a regulatory permit, the applicant shall process a conditional use permit as required by the City's Land Use Regulations. Information that may be duplicative in the two (2) applications can be incorporated by reference. The conditional use permit shall run with the land. The applicant currently has a regulatory permit application under review with the Police Department and pending City Council approval. The State of California is now accepting applications from commercial cannabis operators who will be subject to the comprehensive set of regulations that the State has adopted. The State regulations that apply to Cannabis Outdoor Cultivation Facilities are regulated by the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CalCannabis) and the State Water Resources Control Board. Those regulations will govern the various cannabis operations within the state in addition to applicable sections of the City of Coalinga’s commercial cannabis ordinance.
Site Plan Review
According to Section 9-6.402 of the City of Coalinga Municipal Code requires that all applicable new structures permanent or temporary erected in the City require a site plan review and approval by the Planning Commission for consistency with all applicable zoning regulations.
The purpose of the site plan review is to enable the Community Development Director or the Planning Commission to make findings that a proposed development is in conformity with the intent and provisions of the Coalinga Municipal Code, and to guide the Building Official in the issuance of permits. The proposed project does not fall under the exempt projects and projects qualifying for Administrative Site Plan Review; therefore, the proposed project requires site plan approval from the Coalinga Planning Commission.
California Environmental Quality Act
This application constitutes a project in accordance with the California Quality Act, therefore staff has prepared an environmental analysis as part of this land use application.
Once the application was deemed complete staff requested comments from the necessary City Departments. This proposal including conditions of approval reflect feedback from the necessary City Departments.
III. PROPOSAL AND ANALYSIS:
Manufacturing and Business Light (MBL) Development Regulations There are several development regulations that staff evaluates prior to recommending approval of a Conditional Use Permit and Site Plan Review application. This site plan application has been reviewed for compliance with the Coalinga Planning and Zoning Code and meets all applicable requirements for the proposed use based on type, location and site constraints.
Outdoor Cultivation In accordance with State Law, “Cultivation” means any activity involving the planting, growing, harvesting, drying, curing, grading, or trimming of cannabis. In addition, a “Cultivation site” means a location where commercial cannabis is planted, grown, harvested, dried, cured, graded, or trimmed, or a location where any combinations of those activities occurs.
The City of Coalinga’s local ordinance defines outdoor cultivation as the cultivation of cannabis, outside of a structure, without the use of artificial lighting in the canopy area at any point in time. Cultivation within a hoop structure is considered outdoor cultivation. No artificial lighting is permissible for outdoor cultivation. However, the intent of this restriction was to limit light pollution from excessive artificial light. Therefore, if blackout shades are used, the use of artificial light would meet the intent of the code and be permitted subject to CUP approval.
Using the proven cultivation method outlined in this application, the applicant will produce and maintain a consistent supply of cannabis to support the existing manufacturing facility.
General Plan/Zoning Consistency: The location where the outdoor cultivation facility will be located has a General Plan designation of (MB) Manufacturing and Business with a zoning designation of Manufacturing and Business Light (MBL). The project proposal is consistent with the General Plan and Zoning Designations for Cannabis Uses including outdoor cultivation.
Development Proposal: The proposed project is phased outdoor cultivation operation in the back and front of the existing licensed cannabis campus located at 185 W. Gale Ave in the City of Coalinga. The area’s to be farmed total approximately 13.16 acres within the property. The applicant plans to use the existing accessory buildings for restrooms, administrative office and drying sheds for the cannabis. Separate storage areas will be used for nutrients and secure storage as identified in the application.
A composting area of wind rows and piles will be added so that the applicant can make their own soil amendments out of the fan leaves of the plant material they would typically dispose of. Prior to beginning cultivation, chain link metal boundary fencing with privacy screening will be installed to protect the view-shed, and to keep the property in-line with the surrounding subject property. The land will be prepared for outdoor farming by creating rows and proper irrigation before planting the seeds. Hoop house style shade coverings will be used when appropriate to help protect the plants from harmful weather conditions. This will also help regulate the temperature of the plants. The plants will be watered and cared for with a schedule of nutrients and amendments. When the plants are ready for harvest, they will have their fan leaves removed while still in the ground. A few days later the plants will be cut down and moved into the buildings to be hung upside down to dry. The plants will then be placed in large bins and transported using a licensed distribution company to the existing manufacturing facility. All activity will be recorded through the state’s track and trace program called Metric. The applicant estimates they will have 2-3 harvests per year.
Phasing Plan: The applicant is proposing to complete their operational buildout in three (3) phases.
- Phase 1 of development will be to commercially cultivate approximately 9.76 acres of commercial cannabis (possible hoop houses), renovation of five (5) of the existing industrial buildings on site, demolition of one existing building, security enhancements, fencing with screening, 2,500 square foot secured and monitored composting area, and all the required on and off-site improvements including preparation for Phase 2. (Winter 2020)
- Phase 2 will include the cultivation of an additional 1.53 acres of commercial cannabis, including additional security, fencing, a 6,500-nursery green house, and optional construction of green houses for cultivation of mature plants. Mixed light has been requested as part of this application but in accordance with the planning and zoning code, mixed light is not permitted with outdoor cultivation. However, as a condition, mixed light may be permitted if light is not emitted from the facility which requires the use of blackout shades on the greenhouses to avoid nuisance lighting. The applicant has agreed to these conditions and has been included in the project approvals should the applicant choose to include mixed light. (2022).
- Phase 3 of the development plan will include an additional 1.87 acres dedicated to commercial cultivation in the north portion of the property including fencing, additional security measures including a guard house and slide gate. (2023).
Access: The primary access point for the development will be located on Gale Ave at the north end of the property. According the Fire Department and City Engineer there is adequate space onsite for public safety maneuvering.
Building/Project Access: All employees and authorized personnel will enter the cultivation area at designated entry area after checking in with the 24-hour security personnel at the site entrance who will then grant authorization into the facility. This is located at the west end of the existing parking lot.
Hours of Operation: The farm operation is expected to operate 24-hours a day, (7) days a week with approximately 5 new full-time employees. The applicant is expecting to experience 20 vehicle trips per day from the 5 full time employees assuming a 24-hour operation and one delivery truck daily.
Security: The applicants site protection strategy will address all forms of security concerns and will be required to meet all the security requirements of the Police Chief. The facility will be equipped with access control, onsite perimeter security which meet the requirements of the Police Chief. The existing facility currently has 24-hour security which monitors the entire property and will be tasked with with monitoring this permit as well.
Utilities: All utilities are readily available for connection on Gale Ave. All utility connections shall be Reviewed and approved by the Public Works and Engineering Department.
- Storm Runoff: Existing on-site storm water runoff is being directed to an existing on-site storm water ponding basin which shall remain in operation. Any use of the storm water ponding basin as an outdoor grow facility shall be secondary. No change to on-site storm water retention facilities shall be made.
- Gas: Public Natural Gas Facilities exist on Gale Avenue and are available to serve this development.
- Water: The applicant is requesting a new 4” water service from an existing 12” water line at the southern boundary of the property. The applicant will need to file an application with the Public Works Department for new water connected including any applicable connection/impact fees.
- Sewer: Public Sewer Facilities exist in Elm Avenue and are available to serve this development. Sewer services will be combined with the existing manufacturing facility.
- Meters: Meters for water and gas service shall be requested to the Public Works Department and shall be designed and installed to City Standards. Irrigation meters shall be set up as designated landscape meters and water servicing out buildings shall have their own separate meter.
Parking: In accordance with section 9-4.302 Table 4.4 of the zoning code, the parking requirement for commercial cannabis is 1 stall for every 1,000 square feet of building space. The existing facility provides 77 parking stalls with an additional 10 stalls provided by the new application near the harvest/storage and common use buildings. Currently, approximately 22,396 square feet of the existing facility is being occupied by licensed cannabis operators, therefore, with the addition of the outdoor cultivation operation and additional parking spaces in the back, the facility is properly parked. When the project expands within the existing facility, additional parking may be required if its operational space begins to exceed the required parking ratio.
Solid Waste: The applicant will be required to utilize the City of Coalinga’s solid waste hauler (Mid-Valley Disposal) for all solid waste needs including destroyed product, green waste, typical solid waste and any other cannabis related products or byproducts where the State of California has authorized franchised solid waste haulers to provide said services. The applicant plans to use the existing facilities bins for solid waste near the south end of the manufacturing area.
Landscaping: The proposed landscaping exceeds the city’s minimum requirement for landscaped areas as it relates to site frontage, parking, highway setbacks and equipment screening. No additional landscaping is required as part of this development proposal since this operation will be located at an existing facility currently in operation.
Fencing: The project proposes to repair any damaged fencing and provide screening in the form of slats to prevent visibility from adjacent properties as required in the planning and zoning code. The applicant proposes to install screened chain link fencing along the Gale Avenue frontage for outdoor grow facilities in phase 3. The chain link fencing shall be installed clear of the existing 70’ public right of way line of Gale Avenue and clear of an existing 16.5‘wide oil pipeline easement. The westerly portion of the chain link fence installed along the southerly property line encloses an existing public utility easement that requires periodic access by Public Works staff to maintain the existing water main installed in that easement. The chain link fence shall be relocated 15’ north as required to provide clear access.
Lighting: Lighting has been reviewed and approved by the Police Department to ensure that there will be no spill over lighting. The existing lighting is adequate for security and accessibility. There is existing pack lighting on the proposed drying buildings as well as the existing manufacturing and distribution facility. The lighting will be used to enhance the security visibility. An onsite inspection by the Police Chief will be conducted at the time of final walk through.
Signage: In accordance with the zoning regulations related to Commercial Cannabis facilities, no business-related signage shall be provided except for those federally regulated such as ADA.
Water Use: The applicant as stated, in their application to the State Water Resources Control Board, that they anticipate using approximately 2-3 acre feet per acre, per harvest which equates to approximately 117 acre feet per year at full buildout (13 acres x 3 a/f per acre = 39 a/f x 3 harvest p/yr = 117). This would represent approximately 0.8% of the City’s water allocation and approximately 1.6% of the City’s annual water consumption which is not expected to have an impact on existing delivery. If secondary water is available from ground sources the City would allow the use of outside groundwater for irrigation purposes only should a reduction in water use be warranted during times of drought and authorized by the State Water Resources Control Board. No new groundwater wells are permitted to be drilled in the City for this purpose.
The applicant has applied for and has been issued a Waste Discharge Identification Number (WDID) under the State Water Board’s General Waste Discharge Requirements and Waiver of Waste Discharge Requirements for Discharges of Waste Associated with Cannabis Cultivation Activities. A copy of the Notice of Applicability has been attached. This site qualifies as a Tier 2 Low Risk site by the STATE WATER RESOURCES CONTROL BOARD, Cannabis General Order Application Number: 428772.
Fuel Storage and other Potential Hazardous Materials: The applicant will be required to meet with the Fire Marshall and Building Official to determine the level of safety protection required based on the desired storage of fertilizers, herbicides and any hazardous materials on site. Known chemicals and solvents to be used at the facility will have been provided to the Fire Chief for review and approval.
Wastewater Disposal: The applicant will not introduce any toxic chemical waste or solvents into the local waste stream or ground water and will be required to disclose all products, chemicals, solvents, active ingredients that will be used as part of the cultivation process. This will also be stipulated in their State Water Resources Control Board annual reports and plans.
Surrounding Land Uses:
Surrounding Land Use Setting
Rodeo Grounds – West Hills College
Industrial (Fresno County)
Per §9-5.128(22)(a), No outdoor cultivation will be permitted within one (1) mile of any Residential Zoning District at the time a conditional use permit is issued. Measurements shall be from property boundary to property boundary. Areas where cannabis is cultivated shall be screened from public view adjacent to the premises by fencing, structures or vegetation.
Public Notification: On September 15, 2020 public hearing notices were sent to all property owners within 300 feet of the site and posted as required by Local and State law.
Environmental Review: Section 21084 of the Public Resources Code requires the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Guidelines to include a list of classes of projects that have been determined not to have a significant effect on the environment and which shall, therefore, be exempt from the provisions of CEQA. In response to that mandate, the Secretary for Resources has found that several classes of projects listed in Article 19 of the CEQA Guidelines do not have a significant effect on the environment, and they are declared to be categorically exempt from the requirement for the preparation of environmental documents.
The proposed project includes the renovation of several accessory buildings and minor disking and tilling of the land for the planting of commercial cannabis. The proposed cultivation and structures are consistent with the General Plan designation of MB and zoning designation of MBL. The project site is located within the City of Coalinga City limits on a 13-acre parcel that is already substantially developed and surrounded by existing industrial development and does not have any value as a habitat for endangered, rare, or threatened species. The applicant has a legal water source on the premises, will not draw groundwater (onsite) for the purposes of irrigation, will not allow illicit discharges of irrigation or storm water from the premises, will not allow the off-site drift or discharge of chemicals, and will be connected to the City of Coalinga sewer system. Therefore, the proposed project meets all requirements established by Section 15304 of CEQA Guidelines and can consequently be considered exempt from the provisions of CEQA under a Class 4 exemption (minor alterations to land).
IV. FISCAL IMPACT:
This project will generate at least 5 new full time jobs (possibly more part time work during harvest), cannabis licensing fees and cultivation taxes in excess of approximately $1.4 million at full build out at the current tax rate.
V. REASONS FOR RECOMMENDATION:
Site Plan Findings for Approval: According to Section 9-6.404 of the Coalinga Municipal Code, the Planning Commission shall consider the following findings to approve a site plan:
- The proposed construction/alterations are in substantial conformance with the General Plan, zoning ordinance, and any applicable plans adopted by the city.
- The proposed construction/alterations conform to the requirements of the applicable Zoning Districts.
- The proposed construction/alteration conforms to all applicable design standards and guidelines, as adopted by the City Council.
- The construction/alteration will not have significant adverse effects on the public health, safety and welfare.
Conditional Use Permit finding of Approval: A Conditional Use Permit shall only be granted if the Planning Commission determines that the project as submitted or as modified conforms to all of the following criteria. If the Planning Commission determines that it is not possible to make all of the required findings, the application shall be denied. The specific basis for denial shall be established for the record.
- General Plan Consistency: Approval of the proposed project will advance the goals and objectives of and is consistent with the policies of the General Plan and any other applicable plan that the City has adopted;
- Neighborhood compatibility: The location, size, design, bulk, coverage, density, traffic generation and operating characteristics of the proposed project are consistent with the purposes of the district where it is located, and will not have an adverse effect on the neighborhood and surrounding properties;
- Asset for the neighborhood: The nature, use and architectural/design features of the proposed development make it attractive, functional and convenient. The proposed development enhances the successful operation of the surrounding area in its basic community functions, or provides an essential service to the community or region.