Belmont is examining whether commercial cannabis business in the city, such as retail stores, can be allowed to significantly increase revenue and corporate taxes as it recovers financially from the pandemic.
At its April 13 meeting, the city council instructed staff to consider possible regulations and measures for the commercial cannabis business after a lengthy discussion. Some on the council advocated a slow approach to the issue while others, such as Belmont Mayor Charles Stone, suggested that the city was being given an opportunity.
“The demand is clearly there. Delivery companies and other cities are currently benefiting from this demand. This demand is now going nowhere. That’s pretty clear, “said Stone.
The city is still at an early stage in the process and needs to consider the legal background, costs of implementation, surveillance and public safety. City administrator Afshin Oskoui said at the meeting that the estimated figures given to the city about cannabis retail stores show that annual sales per store could be anywhere between $ 250,000 and $ 300,000, although the city is still conducting detailed financial analysis got to. The city currently has no income from cannabis shipments in Belmont. In a January city council planning session, local regulation of commercial cannabis was identified as an issue of study.
Stone said the public safety and insecurity concerns that the council rightly had in 2017 had not materialized, and there was too much unknown at the time to make a decision. He said there was a shortage of pharmacies along the Highway 101 corridor on the peninsula, which gave the city a chance. Stone believed the potential revenue of half a million to a million dollars was comparable to that of hotels. The city is currently facing budget challenges and he believes the proceeds would help resolve budget issues.
“The demand is there. The question for me is whether we want to take advantage of that, ”Stone said.
Vice Mayor Julia Mates advocated exploring options that enable commercial cannabis activity and making it a priority for employees as revenues need to be diversified. She suggested that we see what other cities are doing and not miss an opportunity.
“We should also look at what our neighbors have done. We shouldn’t necessarily be reinventing the wheel, ”said Mates.
Councilor Davina Hurt wanted to investigate the issue further but had questions about the implications, such as maintaining local control and the city’s market share. She also had social justice concerns, whether retail stores were only located in certain neighborhoods and what that would mean for residents.
“I think we need staff to spend time figuring this out and what it means specifically for Belmont,” said Hurt.
Councilor Warren Lieberman was in favor of slow walking and wasn’t concerned about leaving the town behind. He wanted to make sure the city understood all the implications before making decisions. He preferred to do nothing for a year as the city emerges from a COVID-19 crisis, but said the potential revenue could make sense and be enough to ponder the problem.
“Right now I’m still struggling with whether I think it’s a good idea or not. I’m not sure, and I probably won’t know, unless the staff does a fair amount of work to really understand the implications, ”Lieberman said.
Lieberman said it only made sense to have retail stores on El Camino Real or a small section of Ralston Avenue near El Camino Real. He personally didn’t want anyone anywhere a block or two from where he lived, and he believes there are likely many people in Belmont who don’t.
“I would be surprised if we allowed something to be in the middle of the neighborhood or near the Carlmont mall,” said Lieberman.
Councilor Tom McCune wanted staff to study it and bring it back for a future discussion date. McCune wanted to spend more time researching the potential permits, locations, and how they would be incorporated into the structure of the city.
“I don’t think this needs to be treated as an urgent, immediate, and expedited matter. I think we can take our time, ”said McCune.
State law restricts cannabis businesses within 600 feet of a school, daycare center, or youth center. So the city created a buffer zone map that indicates where schools, parks, daycare centers, and city-defined businesses for children could have an impact on the locations of cannabis stores. The cannabis business locations available to fit in potential 600 foot radius buffer zones of city limits were limited, although the city was able to resize these zones and potential locations based on input from the council. The map was not final and was merely informative to provide context for the location of schools, parks, and businesses.
Dave Bauer, a resident, supported commercial cannabis options in Belmont and urged the city council to swiftly approve pharmacies as cities like Redwood City are considering doing so.
“It’s a good source of income for the city,” said Bauer.
Most of the speakers supported cannabis stores for various financial and business reasons. One speaker called for strict rules for opening cannabis stores.