Changes for Jensen’s of Ukiah, and for recreational weed

Supes approved rezoning for Jensen’s truck stop.

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UKIAH, 4/18/2017 — Jensen’s truck stop is on track to be the site of a Starbuck’s and a Chevron, now that the owner of the 4.77-acre property just north of Ukiah city limits has received  supervisorial approval for his long-awaited project. The recreational cannabis cultivation ordinance also moved one step closer

Mahmoud Alam, president of Faizan Corporation and the owner of the property, was present at Monday’s hearing before the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors. Alam is currently the operator of an Arco station in Talmage and another in Fort Bragg, as well as the Express Mart on Mendocino Drive in Ukiah.

The board voted unanimously in favor of rezoning the property from limited industrial to general commercial, which allows for a wide variety of uses, including residential development. This does not preclude hotels. Alam was also granted approval for a minor use permit to build two commercial office and retail buildings and replace underground fuel tanks and distribution piping. After the two buildings are constructed, he plans to replace the Jensen’s truck stop structures with a Chevron station. The Mendocino County Planning Commission voted to recommend that the board approve the project, with 35 mitigation measures, at its meeting on December 1st of last year.

“We want to start yesterday,” said Alam, in a brief interview during a break in the proceedings. He said he plans to have local architect Lawrence Mitchell submit drawings for the buildings next week. After a few months of “back and forth,” he hopes to break ground in July. He told Second District Supervisor John McCowen that he plans to keep the truck scales, after McCowen remarked that “The ag guys are worried about that.” Asked about prospective tenants, Alam said he expects Starbucks to open a franchise, and mentioned the possibility of a sandwich shop. According to a map accompanying the agenda item, Jensen’s restaurant is not a part of the 1.75-acre initial development area.

The remaining 3.02 acres of the property, which also does not include the restaurant, would remain available for future developments. These, according to the county planning commission’s recommended mitigations, must conform to a set of community design guidelines. Alam’s attorney, Brian Momsen, protested that the guidelines were akin to the stringent requirements of Fort Bragg’s scenic corridor. He also stated that neighboring parcels, which were developed prior to the 2009 revision of the Ukiah Valley Area Plan, were developed by right, while Alam must obtain a use permit for his project. He hinted that the level of review required by this measure might discourage future development of the property.

McCowen, who insisted that approval of the project be contingent upon removal of several abandoned or non-operational vehicles and accumulations of scrap metal, said that “Almost anything would be an improvement” on the neighborhood, and that “I hope we’re not trying to make it compatible to the surrounding area.”

One unusual feature of the project is that Alam will be granted permission to lease county property for signage purposes. He wishes to place a sign advertising his business on a bulb of land that noses onto Kuki Road and is flanked by Lovers Lane and North State Street. To do this, he will have to apply for an encroachment permit from the Mendocino County Department of Transportation, pay rent under a memorandum of understanding, and landscape the area around the sign. Fourth District Supervisor Dan Gjerde declared that this provision “may not have precedent, but maybe the county should be more entrepreneurial…I don’t see any downside at all” to the signage arrangement, which received unanimous approval from the board.

Recreational cannabis

The board also voted unanimously to introduce the draft ordinance for recreational cannabis cultivation — the first step in passing it into law. The ordinance will be formally voted into law at an upcoming meeting.

If passed Chapter 9.30 will regulate non-permitted recreational pot growing, allowing six recreational plants, which must be contained within 100 square feet, to be grown without a permit — in accordance with the state law. However, outdoor recreational cultivation will not be allowed on parcels smaller than ten acres in size. This restriction has been advocated by groups concerned about cultivation in neighborhoods in the Ukiah area.

Law enforcement officials have indicated that enforcement will be driven by complaints. Renters will be allowed to grow the plants in garages or accessory dwellings only, to discourage using habitable space for cultivation purposes. Property owners will enjoy a little more leeway to grow where they like. As Fifth District Supervisor Dan Hamburg said, “If it’s your own place, you can grow in the bathroom.”

An amended version of Chapter 9.31 will continue to regulate medical cannabis cultivation in areas of the county not governed by the new inland medical cannabis cultivation ordinances, adopted earlier this month. In March of last year, the board directed that county staff start the process of looking for a consultant who would take the lead in crafting a cultivation ordinance for the coastal zone, which would entail working with the California Coastal Commission. However, the executive office has not yet issued the request for proposals.

County legal staff strove for consistency among the local ordinances and state law, but Gjerde pointed out that 9.31 is the only regulation that will continue to abide by plant count, rather than the area of canopy coverage by adult plants.

Gjerde emphasized the issue of the stalled process of hiring the consultant for developing the coastal cultivation plan, asking, “When are we ever going to get to it if staff doesn’t even know that was board direction?”

Temporary help

In a brief item, the board approved a request by Health and Human Services to hire Scott Taubold, a psychologist specializing in assessing people’s eligibility for a conservatorship based on grave disability. Taubold retired from the county on March 22, less than the 180 day waiting period that is ordinarily required to re-hire a retired employee as extra help. However, according a letter signed by Tammy Moss Chandler, director of the Health and Human Services Agency, the department has a 25% vacancy rate and lacks personnelle with the necessary psychiatric expertise to conduct the proper evaluations for potential conservatees.


Sarah Reith [email protected]

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