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Council holds public hearings on marijuana and fee reductions

Mike Conway

Post Date:07/01/2016

Marijuana ordinance, fee suspension on Council agenda

Public hearings on a proposed ordinance on medicinal marijuana and a proposed fee reduction are on Tuesday night's City Council agenda.

The meeting will be at 7 p.m. in the Council Chambers on the second floor of the Merced Civic Center, (City Hall) 678 W. 18th St. The Council normally meets on the first Monday of the month, but because of the Independence Day holiday, the meeting is being held Tuesday.

The City Council held three meetings to discuss medicinal marijuana and hear from the public. On April 20 Council directed staff to prepare an ordinance regulating four marijuana dispensaries in professional or commercial office zones and planned developments with office zones. Dispensaries would have to be away from schools, parks, youth and recreation centers, libraries and must have a state license.

The proposed ordinance would allow deliveries and allow people with medicinal marijuana cards to grow 12 immature or six mature plants indoors or outdoors as long as they are no visible from adjacent properties or the street. More details on the proposed ordinance can be found in the Council agenda.

The draft zoning ordinance went before the Planning Commission May which voted to change it to limit the total number of plants grown to only six and only indoors, and allow dispensaries in light and heavy industrial zones.

Also on the agenda is a request asking Council to consider suspending collection of the Regional Transportation Impact Fee (RTIF) on new developments for two years.

Other cities in the county have stopped collecting the fees on major commercial projects, which puts the City of Merced at a competitive disadvantage. With 31 percent of the population, the City of Merced has collected $5.1 million, or 41 percent of the $12.2 million in fees collected.

The fees have been used to pay for large transportation projects including $8.5 million for the Atwater-Merced Expressway and helped fund Los Banos Bypass improvements.

A study planned for 2017 will look at the feasibility of the City continuing to be in the RTIF program.

A closed session will be held at 6:30 p.m. to discuss the hiring of a city attorney.

City Council meetings are streamed live on the Internet. A link to the live meeting is on the City's web site at Videos of previous meetings can be found at that link, and are tied to each agenda item. Those services are in addition to the live broadcast of the regular meeting on Comcast's Government Channel 96.

The Council agenda is posted online at and is available outside the chambers prior to the meeting. Request to Speak forms are available at the meeting or can be downloaded from the City's website. Cards must be turned in to the City Clerk in order for a person to be recognized by the Council.

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