At their June meeting members of the Valley Center Community Planning Group (VCCPG) heard an update on the Valley Center Professional building by member Kathleen McCabe and architect Will Rogers.
The complex, adjacent to the Mercy Ambulance building on VC Road, will include the Clark veterinary building and Carlson (VC Smiles) dental office. McCabe said she spoke to the county project manager, Heather Stephens. All paperwork has been received and will be reviewed under CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) and then there will be a final presentation to the group.
Rogers said the design “tries to imagine that these buildings were built in the past.” The complex will include a veterinary office, cat suites, restrooms, kennels for dogs and cats, an operation center and suites for dogs. Visitors will be able to leave without going through the reception area. “It’s very compassionate design and well thought out,” he said.
Planning Chairman Dee Chavez Harmes called it a “beautiful design.”
Rogers added, “We are submitting construction documents at the end of the month.” Rogers asked for a vote on the project, noting that County Fire has approved the plans, the traffic report has been filed and “architectural plans have all been signed off by the County.”
Kevin Smith, vice chairman of the group, and also a member of the VC Design Review Board, said the project was reviewed by the DRB and approved with no changes.
Planner James Garritson moved to approve the project, adding, “It looks beautiful and I hope we can all support it.” The project was approved unanimously.
The group was updated on the Chevron lighting violation it has followed for several months. It became interested when Chevron replaced reflective lights at the gas station with interior lighted signs, which violate the VC Design Review Guidelines.
Chairman Chavez Harmes said she has been talking with Chevron’s counsel, who recommended gooseneck lighting to meet the guidelines. “Due to our communication to Chevron they are changing their plan. They agreed to go to the gooseneck down light, which is allowed by design review. They are waiting for approval. This is another victory for our team!” She noted that the DRB was also engaged in this process.
The group voted to approve the change.
LaVonne Norwood reported on the intergenerational center pilot program for Valley Center that the Board of Supervisors recently unanimously approved at the behest of 5th District Supervisor Jim Desmond.
“Intergenerational programs offer people of different ages ways to come together, with benefits to all involved,” she told the group. “Older adults are one of San Diego’s most valuable resources.”
The idea first surfaced at one of Desmond’s “Revite” meetings that have been held in VC since he began his term. “I have been pushing for this,” she said. On May 19 Desmond proposed VC as a pilot community for this program.
The County is gathering information on senior and intergenerational centers. “Valley Center will be locked and loaded and ready to go to work,” said Norwood. “Valley Center has always been made up of people who aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty.”
She added that the County is looking for grant funding for the project. “We won’t be taxed for it,” she said. “It’s still in the planning stages so a location is not yet decided. Star Valley Park would be a great place to do it.” She concluded. “I think it’s probably going to be a little bit of work to get it done.”
Chavez Harmes said, “We all owe a debt of gratitude to Lavonne for staying on the goal and the doggedness to bring this to the Board of Supervisors.”
Sheriff’s Dept. Clarifies Cannabis Status
The planning group heard an update on the County’s cannabis policy.
Despite a vote in January by the Board of Supervisors to explore ordinances that would allow cannabis dispensaries in the Backcountry, Sgt. Michael Davis of the Sheriff’s Department, said, “This vote did not legalize the cannabis industry.” The County is still bound by the 2017 law where medicinal and non-medicinal pot dispensaries are illegal in the unincorporated areas. “The ordinance is still exploratory in nature. The ordinance is still being evaluated,” said Davis. “They will hear more in October. Cultivation is still illegal. The Department is still enforcing the law. There are no legal dispensaries in the Valley Center and only five in the unincorporated area.”
Note: See related story about a big pot farm bust in this issue.
Sgt. Davis said that changing the ordinance is a “hypothetical. The current code prohibits it until another ordinance is finalized.” He noted that if a new program is adopted it wouldn’t affect actual dispensaries for several years.” He added, “I’m just stating the current legal standing. It’s still illegal. Grandfathered ones will need to close by 2023.”
Chairman Chavez Harmes reported that a group of county chairmen of planning groups met with Supervisor Jim Desmond on April 28 and in May the County held a meeting on “social equity” and how to incorporate it into any cannabis policy. “Each area has the same issues about this,” she said. “It’s important to remember that this ordinance has not yet been proposed. It is not in effect.”
Dr. Matt Matthews, chairman of the group’s subcommittee on the cannabis ordinance, said he met with local Sheriff’s Lt. Karla Menzies and VC Fire Chief Joe Napier for their input on the “risk benefit” of such an ordinance. “In the big picture the federal government sees this as an experimental compound under the strictest of restrictions,” he said. This contrasts with California, which has mandated cannabis for personal use.
Matthews said the state is the governing body for cannabis licensing. “Fees are large, from $15,000 to $75,000 to possess a license. The County is struggling to meet the state’s cannabis code, where they control the profits. Legal businesses must display a QR code,” he said. “Anyone that doesn’t is an illegal distributor.” He added that the County is trying to do it so cannabis businesses won’t need a major use permit. “But with all these fees the major competitor is the illegal businesses. According to the Sheriff, Valley Center doesn’t have any legal marijuana businesses. They are all illegal.”
Dr. Matthews noted that there have been pot seizures all over the county and burnt fields. “These people have gone to a lot of expense and the County is misleading them into thinking they will be doing it legally soon.” He said the VC Fire Protection District is concerned about flammable crops and added, “It’s creating a burden for law enforcement. We need clarity so that what is done is legal — the County has not provided any clarity so far.”
Chairman Chavez Harmes recommended that since there currently is no action from the County on this issue that the group table its cannabis subcommittee, “Until we have a clear and concise direction that gels with county, state and federal laws,” she said.
LaVonne Norwood added, “The layer on social justice they are trying to place over this is frustrating to listen to.”
Matthews interjected, “They have nothing at this point. Maybe it’s a work in progress, but right now it’s a mess!”
Chavez Harmes said it created all sorts of problems with the County’s planning groups.
Kevin Smith clarified that there IS one legal dispensary in VC, on Nelson Way. “The Board of Supervisors did vote to extend those for another five years,” he said.
Presenting a dissenting view was planner Dori Rattray, who said, “The farmers are being left out of this discussion. The farmers in Valley Center have gotten a raw deal, first from downzoning, where we can’t divide our land below twenty acres or forty acres. We all had avocado groves and water rate hikes and cutbacks. You see a lot of the farms that are dead groves or stumped. I’ve spoken to farmers, and we believe we should have the option to be permitted to operate and have some kind of crop that could make our land profitable again.”