Council eyes allowing second dispensary
After a full year’s process of approving a single retail cannabis dispensary for Sonoma, the Sonoma City Council on Wednesday will discuss a possible amendment to the city cannabis ordinance to allow for a second retail dispensary in the city limits.
Also on the agenda of the Jan. 20 public meeting will be a discussion of how to fill the seat of departing Councilmember Rachel Hundley - whether by 2-year appointment, or a special election. Hundley announced her resignation in December, effective Jan. 31.
The move to add to the number of retail dispensaries allowed by the city’s cannabis ordinance came in the wake of the award of the city’s single conditional certificate Dec. 14 to the Sparc dispensary of Santa Rosa.
During council deliberations last fall, some dissatisfaction arose that the process only allowed a single storefront dispensary, leading to charges of “city-sponsored monopoly” by Councilmember Amy Harrington – an original member of the city’s ad hoc committee which set up the process.
None of the 10 applicant finalists for the walk-in dispensary were interested in the delivery-only license that is also allowed under the current ordinance. Seven delivery services have been approved for operation in the city, though none are based in Sonoma.
In order to permit a potential second walk-in dispensary, the city needs to modify the city municipal code to allow for it, then establish an application process to receive proposals from eligible cannabis businesses.
As outlined by city staff, the application, rankings, interview process and criteria would largely be the same if a second dispensary were allowed —including a “community benefits” requirement, such as “employment for residents of the city, community contributions, and/or economic incentives to the city.”
In the November 2020 election, Sonoma voters passed Measure X, a sales tax of up to 4 percent on cannabis businesses that goes into the city’s general fund.
Also in the November election voters rejected Measure Y, a proposed ordinance that would have allowed multiple cannabis businesses to operate in town without special use permits.
Amendments to the city cannabis ordinance will be discussed at the city council meeting, and a proposed timeline for application, review and selection may be proposed.
Open Council Seat
The council is also expected to take up the process of finding a replacement for Councilmember Rachel Hundley, when she resigns at the end of the month amid her second term.
According state law, the council has 60 days from her effective resignation to either name a replacement for the rest of her term, or call a general election to allow voters to make the selection. That would be approximately April 2.
If they decide to hold an election, the county Registrar of Voters has suggested election dates of either Aug. 31 or Nov. 2 , 2021. If that course is followed, the Sonoma City Council might have only four members for most of the current year.
The meeting will also include the official introduction of Interim City Manager David Kiff, who began work for the city on Jan. 4.
The meeting begins at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 20. Public comment is accepted at specific times during the meeting; for instructions on how to join or view the Zoom-based meeting visit sonomacity.org.
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