WATSONVILLE — The Watsonville City Council on Tuesday narrowly approved an ordinance that will allow for the manufacturing and processing of medical marijuana products.
The council voted 4-3 in favor of the ordinance, with Rebecca Garcia, Jimmy Dutra and Nancy Bilicich dissenting.
The vote came three weeks after the Watsonville Planning Commission unanimously supported a plan to add medical marijuana manufacturing to the city’s current cultivation ordinance.
The council approved an ordinance allowing cultivation in the city in January.
Since then, the city has worked with the Cannabis Advisory Committee, community members and consultants to craft the new regulations.
Under the new ordinance, the city would allow the cultivation, manufacturing and processing at nine locations in the industrial parts of Watsonville. That number was winnowed down from 16.
The city currently has seven permitted cultivation facilities.
“This ordinance allows the establishment of a limited number of medical cannabis manufacturing facilities that will not overwhelm the city’s resources at this time and will give the city time to determine how this ordinance work and to make modifications as needed,” Acting Community Development Director Suzi Merriam said.
Anyone who wants to apply for one of the permits must go through a multi-phase process that must ultimately be approved by the city council. Applicants will be scored on several points including type of product that will be produced, the amount that will be produced.
Similar to cultivation facilities, manufacturing facilities would be required to be located at least 600 feet from schools, libraries and parks, as well as 300 feet from residential zones.
Former Pajaronian editor Jon Chown praised the employment potential of the ordinance.
“These people are professionals,” he said. “They are trying to bring jobs to your community.”
Chown also said the ordinance is too strict, and that the city should consider expanding the number of companies that are allowed to get permits.
Chown pointed to Monterey and San Benito counties, which have already established similar, but less restrictive ordinances.
“They are reaping a windfall in Monterey County with their rules which are more permissive,” he said.
Montoya asks council to declare fiscal emergency
In other action, the council tabled until May 23 a request by Watsonville City manager Charles Montoya to declare a state of fiscal emergency in the city.
Montoya was also asking the council to approve a quarter-cent sales tax for the November ballot as a way to generate an estimated 1.8 million annually.
According to Montoya, the city’s infrastructure is “failing,” with a $26.2 million project list for Parks and Community Services, Police, and Fire department buildings in immediate need of repair of basic repair. Most city facilities are more than a decade old.
The problem was exacerbated both by the unprecedented rains that inundated the county earlier this year, and by the elimination during the 2008 recession of the city’s capital improvement program.
If approved, the tax would bring Watsonville’s rate to 9 percent.