Mad River Union
McKINLEYVILLE – The legal cannabis industry is ramping up in McKinleyville, with a second dispensary gaining county approval and a third in the pipeline.
At its Jan. 10 meeting, the county’s Planning Commission approved permits for dispensary and non-volatile cannabis manufacturing facilities within a medical plaza at 1711 and 1715 Central Avenue, near the Sutter Road intersection.
Advanced by Calyx Mountain Inc., the dispensary will be McKinleyville’s second, with Satori Wellness Center at 1551 Nursery Way having opened last spring.
Calyx Mountain’s 967-square-foot manufacturing operation will produce cannabis distillates, tinctures and oils, a variety of edibles and topical salves and balms. The 528-square-foot dispensary will be a medical “wellness center” with open hours Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
County code gives the Planning Commission discretion to deny permits based on a 600-foot setback standard. For the most part, the project is greater than 600 feet away from residences, schools, parks and churches, although the parking lot of the Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints church and residences to the northeast and southeast are about 500 feet away.
The cannabis facilities have been met with some objection, as McKinleyville Union School District Superintendent Jan Schmidt submitted written comments stating that cannabis is illegal under federal law and there’s concern about students having to pass by the dispensary as they go to and from school.
And during the public comment portion of the hearing, Barbara Georgianna told commissioners that she opposes approving the permits.
“McKinleyville does not need three dispensaries,” she said.
A resident of a nearby neighborhood “a little bit outside” of the buffer said he’s concerned about the manufacturing facility’s potential to cause odor.
Support for the project was voiced by Terra Carver of the Humboldt Growers Association, who said that county rules shaped by a “robust” public process are being followed.
Kelly LaRose, an Arcata resident and the owner of Calyx Mountain, said the extraction and tincture processes will be done only with alcohol, ethanol and glycerin.
Addressing the odor concerns, LaRose said that filters will be used and all delivered products will be “pre-processed and in tight containers.”
She described the planned operations as “very efficient, conscious and respectful of our neighbors in every way.”
Senior Planner Elizabeth Schatz told commissioners installation of a ventilation/filtration system is required to limit odors.
Noting Georgianna’s concerns, Commissioner Ben Shepherd distinguished Calyx Mountain’s project from other retail cannabis operations.
“This is a different kind of dispensary, this is more on the medical side,” he said. “Having been a past business person, competition’s a good thing, it’s not a bad thing – competition hones your skills and makes sure you provide a good product.”
The county doesn’t set limits on dispensary numbers, although the 600-foot setback consideration applies if one dispensary is in proximity of another. But Commission Chair Bob Morris discouraged considering dispensary “densities,” saying market forces should hold sway.
“I don’t believe it’s a wise policy for the commission to start deciding who can have a dispensary in an area and who cannot,” he said. “I think that’s a dangerous slope for us to start down.”
Commissioners unanimously approved the permits, adding a requirement that three county inspections be done within the first six months of operation to confirm that odor isn’t an issue.
Also at the meeting, commissioners held a third workshop on planning for sea level rise in the Humboldt Bay area.
Senior Planner Lisa Shikany described a policy that encourages “living shoreline” installations as a shield against rising sea levels.
Cobble berms, marsh sill, tidal benches and oyster reefs are living shoreline options.
Another planning goal is to allow the use of dredge spoils to elevate diked former tidelands.
The county’s planning is spurred by the forecast of one meter of Humboldt Bay sea level rise by 2070. Shikany said that will endanger 62 percent of the 10,680 acres of agricultural land in the Humboldt Bay planning area.
A potential hurdle to implementing protection measures such as expanding or building dikes is the state Coastal Commission’s policies against filling wetlands.
But Shikany said that if the commission holds firm on restricting protective measures, the inundation of coastal agricultural lands “will have impacts well beyond the county.”
Other policy proposals include setting up a comprehensive, umbrella permitting system for dike work and coordinating the protection efforts of municipalities and agencies.
The commission’s workshopping will continue in future meetings.