CALIFORNIA CITY -- The California City council on Aug. 22 approved the first reading of a zone change for a parcel on California City Boulevard in a 3-2 vote, with Mayor Pro Tem Don Parris and Councilmember Bill Smith declining

The zone change was submitted by California City businesswoman Cathy Yip under the company Mojave Jade Inc. The zone change would have converted a 10-acre parcel from open space/residential agricultural to light industrial, or M1; the lot is located on the west end of town, on the south side of California City Boulevard.

The planning commission on July 16 approved the zone change in a 3-2 vote and sent it to the council for final discussion and approval.

In approving the zone change in its first reading, council directed planning staff to include requirements for improved and aesthetically pleasing setbacks, significant odor control, as well as low building visibility and wall height.

Councilmember Ron Smith said a disturbing concept was the owner investing money in the property before council approval.

“I think it’s a scary thing for people to invest funds (into something) just because the planning commission approves it with a 3-2 vote,” Smith said. “They should not be investing funds until the council gives it a yay or nay.”

He added that investing money in a project doesn’t “constitute our approval.”

Smith also brought up odor control concerns related to growth and cultivation of marijuana. He referenced the 17-acre Attil Farms on California City Boulevard at Maverick Street.

“There’s only one house nearby ... and they’re probably going to need a lot of incense or something,” Smith said. Other concerns he aired included traffic safety which might conflict traffic turnoffs near Attil Farms.

Monk said Yip’s parcel is 1.2 miles from Attil Farms and acknowledged it would be a safety concern.

“It will be addressed at the site plan hearing and the applicant has said she will provide the monies for a full intersection at that location,” Monk said.

Smith also addressed issues of a “cannabis corridor” and asked whether the city would continue to allow cultivation on both sides of California City Boulevard.

“I don’t know that that is the corridor we want to have,” he said. “I hope this is not going to open the door that this is going to be a tunnel of cultivation coming into town.”

He later said he envisioned in his mind “a tunnel of metal buildings ... and a haze on a windy day as people are scurrying to get away from the odor.”

Monk said the planning and building departments are currently discussing processes related to location, as well as address the issue of “false confidence” related to investing money before final approval.

“The planning commission and staff agree, and have requested that no more zoning changes be heard unless they are ready to be brought forth,” Monk said. 

Parris echoed Smith’s concern about Cal City Blvd cannabis corridor conundrum.

“If we continue to allow this one, there’s another one coming up, and there’s M1 property all over this city,” Parris said. “For people to be coming in to change O/RA on the boulevard, we’re going to end up being known as the ‘Cannabis Corridor’ coming in on Cal City Boulevard.” 

Parris scrolled through Yip’s zone request, pointing out what we considered inconsistencies ranging from power service to the negative declaration. 

“I drove out there and I don’t see any power at all,” Parris said. “I see power on the north side going into Attil Farms, but nothing on the south side.” He added the mentioned installation of a temporary well until water line service could be established was an issue.

Parris also took issue with “spot zoning” of the boulevard’s south side, noting the area was zoned entirely open space/residential agricultural.

“We agreed that we were not going to do spot zoning because of the amount of M1 property we have available,” Parris said. Parris added that one version of the negative declaration wasn’t signed or dated. A negative declaration report asserts that a project or development has no mitigation impacts for an area, and won’t require an environmental impact report processs.

Resident Al Hudson, during public comment, said the council shouldn’t hold business opportunities up.

“We don’t exactly have other industries pounding on the door for wanting in here,” Hudson said. “Welcome them, welcome the change ... let businesses bloom. We need to stop being so critical and restrictive. It’s counterproductive and not in the city’s interest.” 

Developer DJ Twohig said the zone request and eventual project would be one way to improve utility infrastructure along California City Boulevard. However, he stressed he was neutral on the zone change approval itself.

“There are pros in allowing this zone change,” Twohig said. He added with respect to spending money, an applicant needs to pay for a negative declaration and environmental report as part of the application process. Twohig also recommended the council could look at setbacks from the road to preserve some aesthetic scenery.

Monk, the city planner, reiterated that Yip’s site plan was still conceptual and something that the planning department would ensure remain aesthetically pleasing.

“Unfortunately, it was a little too late to process that for Attil Farms ... the closeness of the buildings to the road is one of the reasons why it seems so imposing,” Monk said. With Yip’s proposed project, Monk said a water-retaining basin would be in the front, followed by a parking lot and office buildings and cultivation. Landscaping would also be requested to block the odor.

Everything would be conducted during a public planning director’s hearing.

Smith said those proposed requirements caused him to look at the project differently, and that he would insist on those setbacks and improvements.

Mayor Chuck McGuire said his only concerns were increased odor control and a need for improved setbacks.

A second reading is required to approve the zone change. A separate site approval public hearing required before any building can begin.

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