AVMAC meeting reviews Anza’s place in county cannabis discussions, water rights lawsuits

Anza Valley Municipal Action Council board members Bob Giffin, left, and Gordon Lanik, right, listen intently to Riverside County Supervisor Chuck Washington’s legislative assistant Opal Hellweg’s county report at the AVMAC meeting, Sept. 13. Diane Sieker photo

The Anza Valley Municipal Action Council conducted their meeting Wednesday, Sept. 13, at the Community Hall in Anza. The meeting was well-attended; the people met to meet and discuss their concerns with the guest speakers, Riverside County Planning Director Charissa Leach and retired Riverside County Planning Department member Jerry Jolliffe.

AVMAC board members present were Sharon Evans, Allison Renck, Bob Giffin, Gordon Lanik and Edison Gomez. About 45 persons were in attendance.

The meeting was brought to order, and the speakers introduced. Riverside County Supervisor Chuck Washington’s legislative assistant Opal Hellweg talked about county business, namely that the supervisors have been busy with the Service Employees International Union Local 721 strike and the discussion of the ongoing research into the organization of ordinances regarding cannabis commerce within the unincorporated areas of the county. This research is in consideration of the adoption of Ordinances 866.1, 925.1 and 928.1, which clarify the county’s existing cannabis prohibitions and the creation of a regulatory scheme.

Leach took the floor and answered questions regarding cannabis commerce. She said the supervisors were working diligently on the ordinance and tax, fee and permit structures and they were receptive to input from concerned citizens, both for or against. She revealed that special meetings were being planned in certain communities to address the concerns.

“The state has minimums; we can’t go further than that,” she said, in reference to the state propositions regarding medical and recreational marijuana, but the supervisors will try very hard to come up with solutions that “makes sense.”

She explained that the board of supervisors will pass an ordinance, with the electorate able to vote on it in a scheduled election.

“It is a work in progress,” Leach stressed.

AVMAC Board member Allison Renck asked Leach about the impact of zoning on the proposed cannabis ordinance. Leach said the Anza area is mostly zoned rural residential, a designation that encompasses about 582,000 acres within the county. Rural residential zoning allows a lot of freedom in regards to agricultural development and is therefore open to possible cannabis cultivation within the law of the new ordinance.

“I am here to listen, and I will be back on the cannabis issue,” Leach said.

Retired planner Jerry Jolliffe stressed water constraints and said the entire issue is “complicated.”

“Anza is a rural community with a special personality,” he said, and recommended citizens attend as many meetings as possible to have their voices heard on the matters affecting them.

“It’s your call,” Jolliffe said.

He used a large map of the Anza Valley Policy Area to illustrate different zoning tracts and trails and mentioned that the Trail Town designation for Anza would take advantage of the historical flavor of the community and open it to government and private grants for improvements. He mentioned updating the current plan to deal with local issues.

“That’s why these meetings are so important, but people must also have patience and perseverance,” Helwig said. She spoke briefly on the ongoing water litigation said as much as Washington is rallying certain agencies to consider a speedy a resolution of the issue, it is in the hands of the courts.

AVMAC member Bob Giffin said. “We’re in a spot; we can’t move forward,” in reference to county policies limiting commercial development in Anza reportedly due in part to the water litigation.

Jeral Cooley, a business owner trying to open a small coffee shop called Uncommon Grounds in Anza, expressed his frustration over the problems he is facing in obtaining approvals and permits for his project. Commercial development restrictions are denying local people jobs and opportunities, he said.

AVMAC board member Edison Gomez described the new AVMAC website, still under development and expected to be finished in the near future. Gomez has been working diligently to create bright, easy-to-navigate pages with archives, news, minutes and more. He encouraged people to browse the site when it is complete and to have their children and teens do the same.

“Get everyone involved,” he said.

Cahuilla Tribal member Antonio Heredia Sr. introduced himself and spoke regarding the water issue.

“My intent is not to offend the community,” he said, and he went on to describe his feelings regarding the water problems at hand. He stressed his concern with water quality, and the potential commercial growth that might affect it.

“We are all in this together,” he said, “If we can’t drink the water, we don’t have any.”

He went on to remind the people present of a toxic dump site located on the Cahuilla Reservation and said that he felt that it has been ignored by both tribal and nontribal government agencies for too long. He said that this site was created by tribal and nontribal people to receive contaminated soils from EPA-required compliance work on gas station tank replacements in the 1970s and has only partially been addressed by the authorities. He communicated his concern about this affecting the quality of water passing under the site and on to other lands. He ended his short comments amid applause from the people in attendance.

The November AVMAC meeting will feature CalTrans representatives as special guest speakers.

To contact Washington’s office, call 951-955-1030 or visit www.supervisorchuckwashington.com.

For more information on the Riverside County Planning Department, visit www.planning.rctlma.org or call (951) 955-3200.

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