County staff recommends upholding of staff permit approval of Yorkville Market conversion.
Item 5j on the Tuesday, January 4, 2021 Supervisors Agenda:
Noticed Public Hearing - Discussion and Possible Action to Consider an Appeal of the Zoning Administrator for Approval of an Administrative Permit Located in Yorkville (AP_2021-0014) to Allow a Cannabis Processing and Non-Volatile Manufacturing Facility, Located at 26701 Hwy 129, Yorkville
(Sponsor: Planning and Building Services)
Basis for Appeal
1. Deceptive Practices - The person that is applying for this permit will not be running the business. They are applying for an unknown/unidentified entity, 1 or 2 possible lessors or buyers of the building.
2. Security - This building is surrounded by elderly residents on 3 sides and it located on Hwy 128. It will be an easy target for criminals, with an easy escape route right out the front door.
3. It is the only retail business in Yorkville. It provides needed grocery essentials as well as a necessary community gathering location. Making this facility into an armed and alarmed fortress will hurt the entire Yorkville Community and the Anderson Valley.
4. Environmental Concerns - The building is on the banks of Dry Creek. The store has a long history of limited water supply.
Staff Analysis & Recommendation, January 4, 2022
Honorable Board Of Supervisors
Sam ‘Vandy’ Vandewater, Senior Planner, Planning And Building Services
Appeal Of Zoning Administrator Approval Of Administrative Permit AP_2021-0014
On May 25, 2021, Lisa Walsh, as property owner and agent for applicant Yorkville Redevelopment Project Inc., submitted an Administrative Permit application to the Department of Planning & Building Services to request approval of cannabis processing and non-volatile manufacturing at an existing structure [Yorkville Market]. The subject parcel is located in the community of Yorkville at the address of 26701 Highway 128 (APN 049- 280-24) and the existing structure currently functions and operates as the Yorkville Market. The project was referred to Responsible Agencies on July 23, 2021 to solicit comments regarding the proposed cannabis processing and manufacturing facility. With exception of the Anderson Valley Community Services District (AVCSD), no agency provided any comment that expressed major concern for the proposed project, though several agencies provided recommendations to be considered by County staff to lessen any issues.
Initial communications between the County and AVCSD began on August 25, 2021, at which time County staff responded to a request for additional information regarding the project, including ways in which members of the Yorkville community could comment on the proposal. Between August 26 and August 31, a total of nine (9) comment letters were submitted to the Department of Planning & Building Services, all of which express opposition to the proposed project. Staff reviewed the comments and concerns raised in the letters by the various members of the Yorkville community and determined that existing County and State regulations, as well as the Conditions of Approval, sufficiently addressed the raised concerns. Concerns were mostly focused on security, the need for a community market, and possible impacts to Dry Creek.
On August 31, 2021, a Zoom meeting was held between County Staff and Anderson Valley Community Services District members Val Hanelt and Larry Mailliard, as well as Fire Captain Clay Eubank of the Anderson Valley Fire Department, to further discuss community concerns and craft Conditions of Approval that would help to reduce and/or eliminate specific concerns. The crafted conditions mostly reiterated County and State regulations or provided more specific regulation unique to the proposed project. However, at their September 1, 2021, special meeting, the AVCSD voted 3-2 to provide a “No comment at this time” response for the project referral, thus the crafted conditions were not recommended by the AVCSD, nor included in the staff report. The project was approved by the Zoning Administrator on September 10, 2021. The appellant filed an appeal for the project on September 16, 2021.
The appellant has raised concerns regarding four different aspects of the proposed project for the basis of the appeal, similar to the comment letters from members of the Yorkville Community: (1) Deceptive practices; (2) Security; (3) Business type; and (4) Environmental concerns. Each item is discussed further below, including a response from Staff regarding the issues raised.
Deceptive Practices: The appellant argues that the applicant for the project is not necessarily the individual/entity that will be operating the businesses. The appellant further argues that the applicant is applying for an unknown entity; possibly 1 or 2 lessees or buyers of the property.
Staff Response: The Department of Planning & Building Services does not regulate the individual and/or entity that operates a business within the unincorporated portions of Mendocino County. A property owner may obtain a discretionary permit for a conditionally permitted use on their property, but not be the individual and/or entity that establishes the business that utilizes the conditional entitlement. Such an approach would allow the property owner to retain their land. Additionally, the Department is not involved in the sale of private property; sellers may prepare their parcel in ways that improve marketability, including expansion of allowed uses through discretionary permitting, to better increase sale prospects. Discretionary land use approvals, such as Use Permits and Administrative Permits are associated with the property as opposed to the property owner or applicant.
Security: The appellant argues that the building is surrounded by elderly residents and that the subject parcel is an easy target for criminals.
Staff Response: County and State regulations require security measures be included as part of the business plan and building infrastructure for any cannabis facility. Measures required by the County Code include, but are not limited to: A/V security cameras, secured doors and rooms, and secured storage areas for cannabis products to prevent diversion, theft, and loss. Staff feels the aforementioned measures, and those required by the State, will adequately address security concerns and reduce the structure likelihood of being targeted by criminal activities. As of the writing of this memo, no information has been submitted to the Planning Division by the Sheriff’s Office or Code Enforcement regarding any incidents related to cannabis and security. Staff will review more information in the meantime.
Business Type: The appellant argues that the market is the only retail business in Yorkville that provides needed groceries and a community gathering place. The appellant argues that converting the building into a cannabis facility will result in the loss of the market, as wells as turning the structure into an armed and alarmed fortress that will hurt the Yorkville community and Anderson Valley.
Staff Response: The Department of Planning & Building Services considered the project and intended uses while writing staff report and found the proposed uses to be compatible with the General Plan and Zoning District. The General Plan Community Specific Plan for Anderson Valley, including Yorkville, does not identify the subject parcel and structure specifically as a market, and the zoning district does not limit the use of the parcel to a “Retail Sales – General” Commercial Use Type. The General Plan Community Specific Plan for Anderson Valley does provide that commercial uses should be approved that support local businesses. As there are numerous cultivators in Anderson Valley, the project would provide an outlet where local cultivators could have their materials processed and/or manufactured.
Environmental Concerns: The appellant argues that the structure intended to be used for the proposed project is located adjacent to Dry Creek and there have been water supply issues in the past.
Staff Response: The proposed project was referred to the Division of Environmental Health and the Regional Water Quality Control Board; neither agency responded with any concerns regarding the supply of water. Additionally, any use of water from Dry Creek would require approval from the California Department of Fish & Wildlife; the Department of Planning & Building Services does not regulate the use of water from streams. Furthermore, the proposed business activities are both considered to be water efficient as cannabis processing does not require water and cannabis manufacturing uses mechanical or chemical extraction, neither of which are water intensive. As of the writing of this memo, no concerns about water supply or impacts to the creek had been submitted to the Department by any referral agency.
One of the attached comment letters raises concerns regarding the cannabis smell that can be associated with the business. Such businesses are encouraged by State and local codes, policies and regulations to avoid and/or minimize the odors emitted by the business. It should be noted that a Condition of Approval to affirm this requirement as part of the project was included in the AVCSD Recommended Conditions, but as noted above, the condition was not adopted.
As previously noted, a number of recommended conditions were crafted by members of the AVCSD to address the concerns raised by the members of the Yorkville community, but these were not adopted with the approval of the project. The conditions have been included as an attachment.
Deny the appeal of and uphold the Zoning Administrator’s approval of Administrative Permit (AP_2021- 0014), located near Yorkville to allow an existing structure to be used for cannabis processing and non- volatile manufacturing, located in the community of Yorkville at the address of 26701 Highway 128 (APN 049-280-24).
Letters in opposition to project (two of several objecting to a cannabis operation in the former Yorkville Market):
Dear Supervisor Ted Williams -
I understand the economic hardships that the pandemic has brought to our community, but this proposal effects our whole neighborhood and way of life. Who are these buyers? What is their short term and long term goals and plans for the heart of our community. Why did they not come and introduce themselves and communicate with us and how their plans might affect our way of life. Why did they not get the permits themselves, instead of forcing a local to do it? They are outsiders with no sense of community.
I am sorry, but I am fed up with the cannabis industry coming in buying property to grow and not even getting legal. According to the Sherriff, only 10% of gardens are legally registered. They dry up the resources and effect everything from vegetation to wildlife with little to no regard for anything except themselves. I am sorry, but I do not want this element in my front yard.
Respectfully, Larry Mailliard
Dear Supervisor Williams,
I am a Yorkville resident writing to say I do not support the application by Yorkville Development Project, Inc., Mary Lou Walsh and Lisa Walsh, for an Administrative Permit to allow for cannabis processing and non-volatile (level 1) manufacturing in an existing structure.
I have specific concerns about this application. This is difficult to write because I have the highest regard for Lisa Walsh and the extraordinary community support she has provided with the Yorkville Market.
But the application appears not for Ms. Walsh's own future business endeavors. She states that she was "approached by two separate entities with interest in purchasing the Market for cannabis processing and manufacturing, if I could acquire the appropriate licensing." Thus, the application is to benefit unknown future owners.
Yorkville needs the Market. It is the only public store in the 27 mile stretch between Cloverdale and Boonville. As such it is a cornerstone of this community.
We understand that Ms. Walsh may want to sell her business. Can't the business be sold to a new owner who will maintain it as a market? Granting this application means a local market could be gone from the town in perpetuity.
Yorkville is a community that relies on its own internal support: neighbor-to-neighbor support, and support for its own infrastructure and fire station. For example, the community built the current Post Office, Fire Station and Community Center. It is now building a new water tender building and almost all of the funds for that were raised internally. Our fire department is volunteer; our town infrastructure, the Yorkville Community Benefits Association, is 100% volunteer. This fabric is essential for our existence as a town.
As of now, the cannabis community does not involve itself supporting the community. In fact, it feels the opposite, with the introduction of elements such as noise, water diversion and theft, fire risk, and uneasy personal interactions. Turning the one commercial building in Yorkville from a market into a cannabis processing business would further push this division, and undermine the fabric that voluntarily supports the town. I am very concerned about this potential cultural shift which so far has produced no positives for the community as a whole.
From the recent Board of Supervisors cannabis ordinance and the planned referendum to have it overturned, it is clear that the County does not yet have a viable vision for the cannabis industry. The negative impact cannabis has had on rural regions, such as Yorkville, has been strongly voiced. It seems highly premature to approve an application for cannabis processing for Yorkville.
Letters Supporting Yorkville Market Conversion To Cannabis Processing Facility
Dear Supervisor Ted Williams –
Yorkville Market will be missed immensely. I am sad that my efforts and my business’ efforts to shop local and support the market were not enough to keep the ship afloat. I don’t blame the pandemic as much as I blame the community. Locals mostly keep to themselves, that’s why they move to Yorkville. The people who have a problem with the market closing do not shop at the market. They do not understand voting with their dollars and should have spent the appeal money of $1,616 on a catered dinner for friends and family. My business spent over $10,000 annually at the market. I went out of my way to cater lunches and breakfast meetings, anything I could do to help Lisa turn a profit. As a small business owner I understand if you don’t vote with your dollars, local businesses will go away.
It’s to late, Yorkville Market has been closing for a while now. I will miss the market more than most but I have made peace with it. The people against this project never shopped at the market. Maybe they treated it like a convenience store and had coffee once in a while or grabbed $10 worth of groceries on a rainy Saturday. They shop in Ukiah or Cloverdale.
I don’t understand the accusation of a third party opening a drug house. The Walsh family owns the store and their daughter Lisa Walsh is pivoting to cannabis. She is going through the political and legal process of opening a cannabis business. The appeal, I’m sure, is par for the course. The reasoning for this appeal is distorted. I’ve talked to Lisa about this for over a year. She is as local as it gets and at the top of a short list of locals that selflessly care about the community.
Thank you for your time.
TO: Supervisor Ted Williams and whom it may concern.
As a community we will all lament the loss of the market, though that gives us no right to place further financial burdens on the owner. Lisa gave our community the gift and I am grateful for the gatherings and opportunities it provided not only for food, the local crafts, art, friendships, it was also a place that marked coming home.
The market tried so many wonderful ways to keep in business and our small community could not or simply did not do enough to help overcome all the obstacles put in the path. It would of been great if stimulus payments to people would of been directed to be spent locally, it would of been great if tourists were not locked out, though even with that running a business is never a sure thing and when its path to profitability is no longer clear no community or government can force its continuance. Hopefully, in future policy mandates time and care will be taken to identify community assets and ensure their viability for the long haul. One day maybe our community will have the funds to develop and revitalize the town... it is not our place to force that cost on Lisa and the market.
I am not a user or proponent of marijuana beyond medical use potential, though I believe people have the right to live their lives as they choose. If the County and State are going to encourage and profit from the industry they and we don't have the right to be hypocritical. If the zone and use allowed for the permit to go forward then it should stand... if this is the path that gives back to the owner a little of what she invested in us then so be it.
Thank you for your time.
Dear Mr Williams,
I am writing in support of Lisa Walsh’s application for a permit to utilize her property for a
cannabis processing facility. I have been a full time resident of Yorkville for nearly 20 years and while I will certainly miss the Yorkville Market, I feel I have no place dictating the terms of a legal business in my community. Yorkville is a small but diverse community and has no official spokesperson outside of our supervisor.
I understand that Mendocino County has approved the permit under appeal. I also understand a small number of residents have written letters in support of the appeal. I do not agree with the arguments contained in the letters I have viewed, and believe that the objections could be made against many business locations along Hwy 128 through the Anderson Valley. In particular, the water use and environmental concerns would seem to apply to the many vineyards and wineries in the area.
My view is that these objections are simply due to the fact the business will be cannabis related. These letters frequently conflate legal and illegal grows. Like it or not, cannabis is a legally permitted business in our state and in our county. We are still suffering the economic effects that Covid related shutdowns have had on our community and I personally would welcome more opportunities for local jobs and commerce.
Thank you, Greg Brunson
To the Hon. Ted Williams
Mendocino County Board of Supervisors 501 Low Gap Road
Ukiah, CA 95482
Re: Appeal of the Zoning Administrator decision of September 10, 2021, Case# AP_2021-0014
Dear Mr. Williams,
I am writing in support of the Application Permit to allow for cannabis processing and non-volatile manufacturing in an existing structure located at 26701 Highway 128, Yorkville, California.
First, in response to the Planning Appeal, filed on September 16, 2021, I'd like to address some erroneous, misleading and/or false allegations contained therein.
Item 1. The applicant for this permit, Yorkville Redevelopment Project, Inc is a known legal entity established in February 2018, and will be responsible for the operations of the proposed business. Any other entity operating a business at that site would be required to apply for their own permits from the County and State.
Item 2. The business will be in compliance with all security regulations and requirements of Mendocino County and the State of California. This will not be a cash-based business as was the former Yorkville Market. The business will not be open to the public and the only traffic will be that of employees.
Item 3. Unfortunately, the Market can no longer function as a viable retail business in Yorkville and has closed. This is due to a number of factors, most of them brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic. Because of a significant reduction in traffic along the highway corridor, diminished community patronization, and a scarcity of employees, most of the operations of the Market and Deli had to be eliminated or dramatically scaled back.
Item 4. There will be considerably less water usage in the new business model than in the former Market.
As a fifty percent owner of the property at 26701 Highway 128, it makes economic sense to have some commercial use of the real estate that would make it possible to live and support a family in this beautiful area. I understand there are some folks who do not like cannabis, but it has been established that legal, licensed facilities are not magnets for criminal activity and do not harbor unsavory characters lurking in the shadows.
All of the hue and cry on this issue came about with one member of the Anderson Valley Community Services District sending an email to a select group of residents. She called a special meeting of the Board to vote against the already approved Permit. The majority of members did not vote against the project, mostly stating it was outside the scope of the District's authorized functions. Interestingly, there does not appear to be a public record of that meeting or vote.
At least four of the opponents to the project are not actually full-time residents of Yorkville, but own property as a second homesite. Many opponents to the project have visited the Market 2 to 5 times in the last seven years.
Mary Lou Walsh, Yorkville Redevelopment