Recreational Pot and the Former Police Station’s Sale Highlight Redding Council Meeting

After the Redding City Council spent two hours wrestling with the idea of cultivating, selling and distributing marijuana for recreational use, two things became clear Tuesday night: 1) The pending votes will not be unanimous, and 2) The process will not be a speedy one.

“Everybody in this community has an opinion,” City Attorney Barry DeWalt said prior to delivering his report on whether cannabis-related commercial activity should be permitted. A total of 18 speakers, each using their full three minutes and a bit more to share their thoughts with the council, affirmed DeWalt’s observation.

City Attorney Barry DeWalt. Photos by Jon Lewis.

As the lengthy meeting mercifully drew to a close, the council worked its way down a “decision tree” proposed by DeWalt and directed the city attorney to begin work on a series of ordinances that would accomplish the following:

–Prohibit all outdoor cultivation of marijuana in the city limits and allow greenhouse or “mixed light” grows in appropriately zoned areas.

–Repeal the existing ordinance allowing licensed patients to grow as many as six medical marijuana plants outdoors. (Prop 64, passed by California voters last November, allows for as many as six plants to be grown indoors.)

–Allow commercial pot sales through a limited number of dispensaries or collectives, with those businesses selected through a request-for-proposal system.

–Allow the manufacture, distribution and delivery of cannabis products with regulations on manufacturing methodologies (i.e. no butane extraction).

–Place a marijuana tax measure before voters (licensed cannabis-related businesses would be allowed to operate during the six to seven months it would take to get a tax ordinance approved).

Mayor Brent Weaver and Councilwoman Julie Winter both said that the issue of legal pot sales in Redding has led to many sleepless nights. Acknowledging that he expected to be in the minority, Weaver said he would be voting in opposition to allowing legal marijuana to gain a greater foothold in Redding; Winter said she accepts that pot is legal and present, but her preference is to proceed with caution.

In the wake of Prop 64’s passage, the council imposed a one-year moratorium prohibiting cultivation, manufacture and retail sale of non-medical marijuana. The moratorium is due to expire on Dec. 1. DeWalt said he would be back before the council on Nov. 7 to ask that the moratorium be extended while he drafts the collection of cannabis ordinances.

In other action Tuesday, the council:

Police station sold

–Voted 4-0 to sell the former Redding Police station to the McConnell Foundation for $685,000. (Mayor Weaver, who owns property nearby, recused himself.) Proceeds from the sale will be held in a contingency account and will either be used to help offset a budget deficit or service the $370,000-a-year debt on the new police station. The move reverses an earlier council decision to apply a portion of the sale proceeds toward the establishment of a sobering center. Such a center is not foreseeable at this time.

Vice Mayor Kristen Schreder filled in when Mayor Brent Weaver recused himself.

The iconic brick police station on California Street is being sold “as is,” an important distinction considering the dilapidated building’s structural woes, City Manager Barry Tippin said.

The McConnell Foundation plans to raze the building (while saving what bricks it can and the green iron doors) and replace it with a to-be-determined mixed-use development, according to John Mancasola, McConnell’s president and CEO, and Rachel Hatch, head of the foundation’s community vitality program.

Parklets and art installations are some of the uses Rachel Hatch suggested for the former police station property.

The bulk of the work is pending the results of a grant McConnell and K2 Development applied for to demolish the adjoining California Street parking structure to make room for a mixed-use development that would include apartments, retail and office space.

In the meantime, Hatch described some temporary uses to liven up the project, including a farmers’ market, art installations, parklets and popup retail. They would be in keeping with the recently designated Redding Cultural District and dovetail with other downtown projects like From the Hearth on the Market Street Promenade, Shasta College’s Health Sciences and University Center and the Sherven Square building.

The McConnell Foundation’s purchase of the former police station has the support of the Redding Chamber of Commerce. Jake Mangas, chamber president and CEO, said his organization likes the possible positive experiences the project offers. Drawing more people downtown “will get more eyes on the street” and will allow other businesses to grow, Mangas said. Viva Downtown Redding also supports the purchase, according to John Truitt, Viva’s director.

Financial transparency

–Voted 5-0 to begin receiving General Fund and Redding Electric Utility financial reports on a quarterly basis, rather than monthly. The move coincides with the launch of OpenGov, a cloud-based program that lets city staff and the public obtain accurate and current information on the city’s revenue, expenditures and budgetary data.

For more, visit www.reddingca.opengov.com

Jon Lewis
Jon Lewis is a freelance writer living in Redding. He has more than 30 years experience writing for newspapers and magazines. Contact him at jonpaullewis@gmail.com.
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