George Boardman: Is this really the Nevada City its residents want? It’s time to be heard
Observations from the center stripe: No noise edition
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Did the residents of Nevada City get what they really bargained for when they acquiesced to the licensing of one — I repeat, one — medical marijuana dispensary in the quaint town of 3,000?
That’s a question they may want to ask the members of their city council — none of whom were opposed when they were elected to office — when the council meets Feb. 14 to possibly license two more medical pot dispensaries.
Then there’s the three pot-related businesses that have been approved, and an additional seven that are in the pipeline. If city officials want to turn the Queen of the Northern Mines into a marijuana mecca, they are well on their way.
All of this started to go sideways in December, when the three-person majority of the Nevada City Council decided to placate two sore losers by setting the wheels in motion to license three instead of just one medical marijuana dispensary.
The original plan was to allow one dispensary to operate for a year, then gauge its impact on the community before deciding to license any more. The decision to triple the number of dispensaries was made even though one of the losing councilmembers conceded that, “The community as a whole, by volume … does not support one (dispensary), let alone two or three.”
That would be Mayor Duane Strawser, who along with councilmember Reinette Senum were unhappy the majority of the council voted to make Elevation 2477 the city’s first medical pot dispensary.
Elevation was one of three applicants for the necessary permits, which would have given it a monopoly market for at least a year. A selection committee composed of two council members and city staff evaluated each application, conducted interviews with the candidates, and then ranked each applicant.
Elevation was ranked first, Nevada County Wellness finished second, and Growing Community came in third. According to council member Evans Phelps, each member of the selection committee ranked the candidates in that order.
The rankings carried the day with the majority of council members at a meeting that was packed with supporters of Growing Community, which is the applicant Strawser and Senum supported. (Senum’s appointee to the city planning commission, Jason Rainey, also heads the board for Growing Community. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.)
Apparently Senum and Strawser didn’t understand the nuances of the evaluation process they initially supported; they certainly didn’t like the result.
“I’m sorry folks. I don’t feel good about this, but it is what it is,” Strawser said. “The folks at this table are voted in by you and they’re here with equal voice.”
Senum, never one to don the mantle of the gracious loser, said, “I encourage a grand jury investigation. I’ll just leave it at that.”
Instead of challenging Senum to be more explicit about her slanderous statement, the majority of council members caved in and decided to expand the field to three dispensaries. After all, it was pointed out, all three applicants are qualified to run dispensaries.
But that’s just the start. Elevation 2477 and two marijuana manufacturing businesses have been approved to operate in the Seven Hills business district, and others are in the pipeline.
Three manufacturing businesses have submitted applications to operate at 138 New Mohawk Road, according to city planner Amy Wolfson, and three others have sent the city zoning verification requests — two at 138 New Mohawk and another for 440 Lower Grass Valley Avenue. There’s also another request for the former home of the South Yuba Club.
A lot of people are unhappy with these developments. The Friendship Club, which works with teenage girls who have a lot of problems in their lives, is going to leave its office on New Mohawk because the girls have enough bad influences around them.
“It just happens to be this is happening in our neighborhood and it’s just not a compatible fit,” Jennifer Singer, executive director of the organization, said at a recent council meeting. “We just have to do what’s right for our kids and our organization.”
Peter Warren, who rents space to several businesses in the Seven Hills area, views too much pot in the area as bad for business. “The Seven Hills business district is an area that’s been slowly improving,” he told the council. “But I believe having too much marijuana business in the area would definitely skew things.”
But Daniel Batchelor, CEO of Elevation and part of an investment group that owns four suites at 569 Searls Avenue, wants to rent some of the units to medical marijuana businesses and create the city’s first “cannabis campus.”
Is this really what the residents of Nevada City want? If they think the riff-raff cluttering up the sidewalks on Commercial Street are a problem now, wait until the word gets out about our local marijuana mecca. The city is having trouble attracting enough students to its elementary schools now. How many people with children do you think want to live in that environment?
The city council doesn’t seem to be ready to put reasonable restrictions on the pot trade, so the residents of the town need to insist on limits. Unless, of course, this is what they really want.
This is also a good example of what can happen when people are elected unopposed. Why should anybody on the council feel the need to be responsive to the residents’ desires if nobody will oppose them at the ballot box?
But residents who don’t like the way things are going can show up at the next council meeting to express their displeasure, and start recruiting candidates who are willing to oppose the incumbents. June would be a good time to start, when Strawser and Phelps will be up for reelection if they choose to run again.
George Boardman lives at Lake of the Pines. His column is published Mondays by The Union. Write to him at email@example.com.
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