City adopts cannabis ordinance

It’s final, no commercial marijuana grows or dispensaries are permitted in Portola.

That was the final decision as the Portola City Council met Nov. 8 to discuss the adoption of the finalized cannabis ordinance, along with a review of the 2016-17 end-of-year financial update.

Cannabis ordinance

The main topic of the meeting was the cannabis ordinance, although it was listed further down the agenda. The council moved to discuss the final decision on the adoption of Ordinance 345, the city’s cannabis ordinance.

The ordinance has been months in the making, with careful research and work put in by members of the ad-hoc committee, Morton and Cooley, along with assistance from many others.

Ordinance 345 hasn’t changed from the draft presented to the council at its last meeting. Key items remain the same, with all commercial cannabis activity prohibited, including dispensaries. The ordinance allows for delivery from an outside source into the county for medical patients.

The ordinance also regulates personal cultivation with a maximum of six plants per parcel, regardless of medical/recreational status or the number of people living on the property. California’s medical marijuana law now allows a maximum of 12 plants.

Outdoors growing — open air growing — is also prohibited, with cultivators restricted to indoors or greenhouse growing. The ordinance also requires non-visibility to prevent attractive nuisances in the community, and requires all growers to file a certificate of compliance with the city.

After a brief public comment period, the council voted by role call to unanimously approve and adopt Ordinance 345. Within 30 days, the ordinance will become effective, after the state is notified, keeping local jurisdiction in the hands of local residents.

Council communications

Mayor Pro Tem Tom Cooley presents local volunteer Betty Folchi with a city proclamation that speaks volumes in gratitude for Folchi’s many years of community service and involvement. Photo by Linda Cooley

Councilmember Phil Oels opened city council communications with a brief report of his work raking. He put in a total of 12 hours since the last council meeting, with two of those hours spent at the Memorial Hall.

Councilmember Debra Reynolds noted that she was able to assist citizens with completing applications for the wood stove change out program.

Councilmember Bill Powers reported that things had been slow on his end.

Mayor Pro Tem Tom Cooley noted his attendance at committee meetings with Morton discussing city finances and working on the interim Portola Volunteer Fire Department committee.

Mayor Pat Morton added that things were moving along with the Portola Volunteer Fire Department Emergency Medical Services  assessment. She also noted the upcoming Portola Christmas tree lighting and parade to be held Friday, Dec. 1.

A special proclamation of appreciation from the council was presented to Betty Folchi for her contributions to the community as a strong source of volunteerism and local pride.

The proclamation was met with modest smiles from Folchi and applause from the room.City Manager Robert Meacher then gave his report, with two main items on the table — Liberty Utility and Cal Recycle.

Meacher opened with comments about Liberty Utility, stating that in the past, the company had failed to take into account the alleys within the city for franchise fee calculations. Therefore, Liberty will be sending a check for the underpaid amount of the franchise fee and will be fully completing GPS mapping of the area.

The mapping will include what Liberty calls a “Green Cross map,” that will list residents that are energy dependant, such as those that depend on breathing machines. The list of all energy dependant residents will then be shared with the city to ensure the safety and well-being of those residents in case of power outages.

Liberty also plans to work with Public Works Director Todd Roberts on a full inventory of all streetlights.

“At this point, we want to find out whose street lights are whose,” Meacher noted. Liberty is also looking into LED “smart lights” for the city. These would have capabilities such as wifi and weather monitoring equipment. “Overall, a very productive meeting with Liberty,” Meacher said.

The proclamation made in honor of Betty Folchi at the city council meeting Nov. 8. Photo by Lauren Westmoreland

Meacher then went on to update the council on the topic of Cal Recycle. Cal Recycle is currently asking the city to come up with approximately $1.5 million for non-water corrective action for the Portola Landfill.

Meacher recommended that a consultant be hired to assist staff with developing an action plan and cost estimate. Oels asked how Cal Recycle can do that if Portola is already compliant, and the city attorney noted that these are Cal Recycle regulations that are merely being implemented.

Despite some frowns and concern from council members, and a report from City Finance Officer Susan Scarlett that the $1.5 million Cal Recycle is “firmly requesting” would be more than the city has in total, council members moved to hire an outside consultant to assist with the situation.

Community Service Officer Chuck Brashear reported his recent work to date, with 25 new reports, 19 of which had already been cleared, bringing him to a total of 295 reports, with 248 abated and a sigh of relief as he said, “Things are finally slowing down!”

Year-end financials

Susan Scarlett handled the final item on the agenda, as she gave an update on the year-end review for the 2016-17 fiscal year. “I promise not to go on ad naseum,” Scarlett joked before giving her report.

Scarlett noted that it had been a fiscally challenging year with the floods that hammered Eastern Plumas in early 2017.

Among other expenses, $10,000 went to fire fees; $50,650 went to LAFCo; $135,000, or 100 percent of the COPS funds, went to Plumas County Sheriff’s Office; and $70,000 went to snow removal.

Scarlett noted that there would be approximately $159,000 left in the general fund and said this is a healthy balance. Scarlett also noted that the water fund was in such a positive position to allow the city  to move $45,000 into the water treatment plant maintenance fund.

Scarlett commented on the good news, that Portola has been able to pay down multiple loans, with the water fund loan from 1978 finally paid off, freeing up $22,000 for the 2018 budget, and that a sewer loan would be paid off in December, freeing up another $28,000.

“This is good news for the future,” Scarlett said.

Meacher interjected that it may be well past time to attend to the state of city snow removal equipment, especially if Portola experiences a winter season similar to the last one.

“We really may be reaching critical mass with the equipment,” Meacher stressed. “There’s only so much that baling wire and duct tape can do and the equipment is getting pretty old and beat up.”

Scarlett then moved on to address a budget-amendment request to complete the housing element to the city’s general plan. Project 192 is trying to get a jump-start with the affordable housing component. However, Portola’s general plan housing element expired in 2014.

“It’s time,” Meacher noted, referring to an effort to renew the housing element. The council agreed, and moved to adopt a budget amendment to provide for the housing element update, not to exceed $5,000. This leaves Portola with a current general fund balance of approximately $2,097,493.69; as Scarlett noted, “A healthy place to be financially.”

City council meetings are regularly held on the second and fourth Wednesday of each month at 6 p.m., and community involvement is welcomed. For those with questions, contact city hall at 832-6803.

2 thoughts on “City adopts cannabis ordinance

  • November 18, 2017 at 3:03 pm
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    You are missing out of a lot of tax money.
    They have one little pot store in Mesquite NV and in the first quarter of the year
    They took in more tax money than all of last year.

  • November 19, 2017 at 7:09 pm
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    Who gives a hoot about Mesquite NV.?

    We’re also missing out on the pile of problems that cultivation brings with it. It’s what the people here want silly.

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