The Tracy Planning Commission gave the green light to two more downtown cannabis retailers, while a third – the one that has drawn the most protest – was turned down.
Both Tracy Cannabis Collective at 85 E. 10th St., on the northwest corner of 10th and E streets, and Dr. Greenthumb’s/Jiva TCY LLC at 951 N. Central Ave., on the southwest corner of 10th Street and Central Avenue, were approved on 4-1 votes.
This brings the number of adult-use retail cannabis dispensaries in town to four, including previously approved shops on Grant Line Road and 11th Street. None have opened yet.
On the first vote of the evening on Wednesday the commission turned down Megan’s Organic Market at 104 W. 10th St., the southwest corner of 10th and B streets, on a 4-1 vote. Just as in the first Planning Commission hearing on the conditional use permit for Megan’s Organic Market on Aug. 24, the planners heard protests from the neighboring youth-oriented dance studio, Academy of Performing Arts, as well as from others who are involved in Tracy’s downtown.
At the previous meeting the planners postponed making a decision until the Tracy City Council could consider whether further regulation would be appropriate regarding proximity to youth-oriented businesses and the number of cannabis dispensaries that should be allowed in the downtown business district.
The council needed a 4-1 super majority to pass an emergency ordinance that would put approval of cannabis-related use permits on hold, but could not get the votes needed for a decision.
Nick Andre, one of the partners with Megan’s Organic Market, told the council on Wednesday that the company had worked with the owner of the building on that corner and with city planning staff to reconfigure the store’s layout.
Among the changes to the plan was relocation of the dispensary entrance to B Street, where only a sign pointing toward that entrance would be visible along 10th Street, and to divide the interior of the building into three separate retail spaces, with the two spaces adjacent to 10th Street to be used for unrelated non-cannabis retail. The Megan’s Organic Market’s space to be toward the back of the building.
“We’re hoping that this change also increases the economic vitality of the downtown,” Andre said. He added that the change puts the dispensary closer to the building’s parking lot along B Street, which will decrease the need for street parking related to the building.
“This is the revitalization of a long vacant property, and we have an upscale design that we believe fits within the downtown.”
Academy of Performing Arts owner Deborah Skinner said she’s not opposed to cannabis dispensaries, but she is opposed to the dispensary’s proximity to her dance studio.
“What we don’t want is it around our children,” she told the commission. “We really ask that you reconsider this because our concern is unintended consequences.”
When it came time for a vote, commission Chairman Cliff Hudson noted that certain findings must be made to reject a conditional use permit, such as a finding that the use would be “inharmonious with” other existing uses in the area.
Commissioner Gurtej Atwal reminded the rest of the commissioners that the municipal code section that applies to cannabis was written when the city was allowing only four retail dispensaries. Since then the council has expanded that number to 12.
“When the commercial cannabis ordinance was put in place nobody knew how many … applicants would be applying in this district,” Atwal said, adding that the proximity of a business that caters to youths should be considered.
“Right now we’re looking at a CUP, a conditional use permit that is based on an ordinance that was adopted on Dec. 3, 2019. At that point nobody was aware of what would happen today. Today is a new scenario. That ordinance needs to be looked into based on the current situation and the current scenario.”
Hudson told the crowd that he was listening to the concerns of neighbors, and he also expressed concern about the proximity of a Montessori schools that is just outside of the 600-foot buffer required by state and city laws, but it was still close enough for him to oppose the use permit. Commission Nasir Boakye-Boateng was the only one to vote in favor of the use permit as the commission voted 4-1 to reject it.
The next two use permits got a more favorable reception after those business owners made their presentations.
Kimberly Cargile of Tracy Cannabis Collective described the property at 85 E. 10th St. as being on the outskirts of the downtown area, and would be more than 900 feet from Tracy High School, the closest school, and more than 800 feet from Main Street Music, one of the businesses that generated concern about dispensaries being near youth-oriented operations.
She added that it is a membership-based dispensary, and while it would sell adult use cannabis the focus would be medical-oriented clientele.
She added that the business has walked the neighborhood over the past few years and handed out more than 400 letters of introduction, and has held four open house events since 2020.
“So far we haven’t received any concerns and have only had positive feedback,” she said.
Tracy Cannabis Collective CEO Michelle Trew added that the company understands the public concern and picked a location outside of the core of the downtown area.
“I’ve worked in downtown for many years myself. I love downtown Tracy and it is important for us to honor the essence of our downtown, and we believe our location will do that for us,” she said.
That use permit was approved on a 4-1 vote, as did the third CUP application of the night from Dr. Greenthumb’s/ Jiva TCY LLC. Atwal was the dissenting vote on both of those.
The Dr. Greenthumb’s application included letters of support from Tracy City Center Association, Tracy Chamber of Commerce and Animal Rescue of Tracy.
Raj Pottabathni, Managing Director of Jiva TCY LLC, told the commission that his company already has 20 retail cannabis licenses in California
“To date we have a spotless compliance record in the cities and states where we operate.”
He noted that the storefront will have frosted, opaque windows with the name “Dr. Greenthumb’s” displayed on the 10th Street and Central Avenue sides, but no depictions of cannabis will be visible.
Kevin Dougherty, a partner with Stockton Gateway, LLC, owner of the building, told the commission that the building has been vacant for past year after BAC Community Bank moved out. Stockton Gateway marketed the building to other financial institutions with no takers, and Dougherty said there was plenty of interest from a variety of other businesses, including potential cannabis dispensaries.
“Due to the high bar that the city set for cannabis dispensaries I was open to at least considering the use,” he said, adding that he checked out other dispensaries and was impressed with their operations and layout. “I think you will find this applicant will set the bar for the type of dispensary that the city of Tracy wants to have.”
• Contact Bob Brownne at email@example.com, or call 209-830-4227.