Seven new pot businesses could be in the pipeline for Nevada City | TheUnion.com

Seven new pot businesses could be in the pipeline for Nevada City

Three recently-permitted medical marijuana businesses in Nevada City pose a threat to the success of Dale Franklin's enterprise, he says.

Franklin said his shop on Searls Avenue, where he's built airplane parts for the past eight years, will soon be "surrounded" by marijuana ventures.

Nevada City recently gave a dispensary and a medical marijuana manufacturing business the green light to operate in separate suites at a building adjacent to the one Franklin rents out for his engineering business.

Another marijuana manufacturing business was approved in a unit behind Franklin's.

Those three are the first medical cannabis businesses approved by Nevada City, but more have applied. Seven additional businesses could be in the pipeline.

According to City Planner Amy Wolfson, three manufacturing businesses have submitted applications to operate at 138 New Mohawk Road.

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Three other manufacturing businesses have sent the city zoning verification requests — a step required before applications can be submitted. Two of those requests are for 138 New Mohawk Road and another is for 440 Lower Grass Valley Avenue.

Wolfson said she's received another request for 545 Searls Avenue, the former location of the South Yuba Club, but she noted that request didn't include a specific business type. Instead, it inquired about the feasibility of various cannabis businesses operating at that location.

Grass Valley and Nevada County have yet to allow marijuana businesses in their jurisdictions. Recreational marijuana businesses aren't allowed anywhere in Nevada County, including Nevada City.

Neighborhood compatibility?

"I don't carry a moral torch," Franklin said.

He explained he has nothing against cannabis use. He's particularly sympathetic toward patients who use the plant for medical needs.

His morals, he said, have always included "live and let live."

"But pragmatically, it just doesn't work," he said.

Due to the necessity for high-quality products in the industry Franklin builds for, his shop is often inspected by federal regulators and customers, who evaluate his operation based on a risk assessment, he said.

If those inspectors catch wind of nearby businesses selling and processing cannabis, he said, he fears he could start to lose customers.

The idea that more marijuana businesses could come into the area only exacerbates his concern.

And Franklin isn't alone in fearing for the future of his business and the Seven Hills area.

Peter Warren, who owns a building in Seven Hills which he rents out to businesses, said he fears the budding industry could set the neighborhood back in what he's seen as an otherwise positive evolution.

"The Seven Hills Business District is an area that's been slowly improving," Warren said to the City Council this week. "It has better tenants, more interesting shops and restaurants. But I believe having too many marijuana businesses in the area would definitely skew things."

The Friendship Club, a nonprofit at 138 New Mohawk Road that works with disadvantaged teenage girls, is planning to move after learning that it may soon share a building with cannabis businesses.

Jennifer Singer, the Friendship Club's executive director, said the organization is searching for a new location.

"It just happens to be that this is happening in our neighborhood and it's just not a compatible fit," Singer said. "The state has made their decisions, the city has made their decisions. We just have to do what's right for our kids and our organization."

One, two, three?

Sue Downing, who owns a hair salon on Argall Way, started a petition which states business owners and employees in the neighborhood "hereby register our disapproval of the cannabis businesses being proposed within the Seven Hills Business District."

Downing said she's collected a handful of signatures and talked with neighboring business owners about the issue, some of whom share her concerns.

She clarified she's not against marijuana businesses, particularly ones like Floracy and the Searls Group — both approved last week — which are manufacturing operations that have said they plan to operate discreetly and won't attract any foot traffic.

But she's concerned the city is moving too fast when it comes to dispensaries.

The City Council on Wednesday was expected to again consider changing Nevada City's marijuana laws and increasing the number of licenses available for medical cannabis dispensaries from one to three. But the council opted to postpone that decision due to two of its members traveling this week.

"I'm very opposed to adding two more dispensaries to our town and our small business district," Downing told council members Wednesday night. "At this point in time, there's no way to actually know what the impact is going to be with one dispensary. That big unknown in my environment is creating an atmosphere of fear and angst and actually anger with many of my neighbors and clients."

Downing said she'd like the city to wait a year and assess the impact one dispensary and two other cannabis businesses has on the neighborhood before approving more.

'One way or another'

Jonathan Collier, a member of the Nevada County Cannabis Alliance's executive committee, said the fear and concern surrounding regulated cannabis businesses moving into cities is no surprise to industry advocates.

"Either way, the cannabis community is going to get beat up," he said. "If you take all those businesses and spread them through town, people are going to say they don't want them in every neighborhood. If you put them in a small area, people are going to say they don't want concentration. There are people uncomfortable with this one way or another."

But the benefits of a regulated marijuana marketplace shouldn't be overlooked, he said.

"These businesses have existed. They've been operating in the shadows. And often the complaint has been that they're not paying taxes," he said. "Now, we're finally in a position where they can be held to the same standards as any other business and we see that as a very beneficial thing. We're seeing legitimate jobs being created around here."

Maria Herrera, the Alliance's communications director, noted cannabis businesses have to adhere to strict standards in order to operate.

Nevada City's cannabis businesses ordinance "establishes prohibitions on nuisance odors, glare, excess energy usage, and establishes safety protections to prevent crime or deterioration of the business area into blight," city code states.

The city only allows medical marijuana businesses to operate on parcels zoned for light industrial use. The businesses may not be located within 600 feet of a school.

"A lot of the concerns are based on a lack of understanding of how these businesses operate and the safety measures they're required to follow. … It's easy to oppose something we don't know," Herrera said.

Harry Bennett, director of Floracy, a manufacturing business set to operate behind Franklin's parts operation, said his operation will likely go unnoticed by anyone visiting the Seven Hills area.

Floracy's location is discrete, behind storefronts that face the main road, and the company has taken measures to ensure it won't put out any odors, Bennett said.

"We're just another manufacturer like (Franklin) is. Just because we're in different industries, we don't see it as any different," he said. We all have certain things we have to comply with in our industries, but we're all American manufacturers trying to contribute to the economy."

To contact Staff Writer Matthew Pera, email mpera@theunion.com or call 530-477-4231.