City Council approves grant to explore cannabis business licensing program

Photo by Crystal Apilado/Winters Express

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During its April 18 meeting, the Winters City Council approved grant funding to explore commercial cannabis and discussed efforts to update the city’s General Plan.

Senior Planner Kirk Skierski presented on the Local Jurisdiction Retail Access Grant, a grant from a state department that is offering funds to local governments in support of the development of local cannabis retailer licenses. 

Providing some background, Skierski explained that “the California Department of Cannabis Control announced (the) availability of grant funding for local governments” which was “developed as an access grant to provide funding…for development and implementation of a local cannabis retailer licensing program.” 

The funding is based on population, and Skierski says that Winters would be eligible for $115,000 in Phase 1 of the program, and Phase 2 offers “an additional $75,000 per number of retail licenses local government has issued.” 

Skierski notes that cannabis has been listed as a priority among past city councils, and that city staff has noticed growing issues in it, telling the council that “it is staff’s opinion that applying for the grant would put the city in the best position to further explore allowing and regulating cannabis-based businesses.” 

However, Skierski also acknowledged that exploring does not need to lead to a “decided outcome,” on the issue and that cannabis “is something that will need to go through a public engagement and community process,” saying that public engagement is a big priority for city staff before moving forward.

Skierski and City Manager Kathleen Salguero Trepa also clarified that staff has already allocated funds to cover the city should it decide to explore the cannabis business but ultimately not change the current status, so the city has some flexibility for exploration.

Skierski asked the Council to allow staff to apply for the grant “with the understanding that the city would only pursue the grant on the direction of the decision-makers and community as it relates to allowing cannabis-based businesses.” 

Councilmember Carol Scianna noted that this issue will need to be decided on at some point, and that using the grant funding to do so instead of having the city foot the bill could make sense. The remaining councilmembers and members of the public also echoed their support.

The council passed the recommendation 4–1, with Mayor Bill Biasi voting against the decision. 

General Plan
Skierski presented the council with the annual General Plan report on behalf of the Community Development Department. The report details the work done in relation to the General Plan last year, and according to the staff report “highlights planning and development activities, building permit activity, affordable housing, and actions and activities the city carried out as part of General Plan implementation in 2022.”

Skierski described what the report includes and why it is done, noting that it is a requirement under state law that mandates local governments to “report on the implementation and the status of their General Plan” and are “intended to help with state lawmakers identifying statewide trends and planning activities, and how local governments throughout the state are implementing their General Plan to help achieve statewide goals and policy.” 

This report also serves to “provide information to the city’s decision-makers along with the public, and get an understanding of…what development and planning activities occurred within the calendar year.”

Skierski provided an overview of the plans and projects that the city undertook in 2022 and a review of permits filed and completed.

Regarding the implementation of the General Plan, Skierski detailed some of the activities and accomplishments done by city staff last year.

The question of updating or making changes to the General Plan arose in relation to traffic and housing, and Skierski noted that it is a “significant task” for city staff to do so and requires time and money that isn’t currently available.

The council passed the recommendation unanimously.

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