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June 20, 2018
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The Cotati City Council meeting

By: Irene Hilsendager
June 15, 2018

A new Cotati police officer was pinned at the Cotati City Council meeting while many of his family and friends were in attendance. Officer Aaron Gallagher said he was proud to be working for the City of Cotati.

A new planning commissioner was appointed after answering many questions from the council. Suzanne Whipple who has worked with the Cotati Chamber of Commerce for 19 years accepted the position of planning commissioner.

The City of Cotati also held a public hearing June 12, to consider approval of eight applications for cannabis business permits, which were unanimously approved by the council. 

Applicants were responding to the first round of requests for proposals issued by the city under the city’s new cannabis land use regulations. All of the applications were reviewed and ranked by each city department, as well as staff from the Rancho Adobe Fire District. Of the eight applications received, there were two applications for stand-alone distribution permits, two applications for manufacturing, two applications for small cultivation (5,001-10,000 SF of canopy), one application for a microbusiness and one application for stand-alone retail. The manufacturing and cultivation permits were proposed for existing buildings in Cotati’s industrial area, north of Lowes. The retail and microbusiness permits were proposed in the retail areas near Highway 116, including an expansion of the existing Mercy Wellness location and a new retail location on the site of the former Red’s Recovery Room, which will significantly improve the blighted condition at the western entry to Cotati. 

Following a staff presentation, each of the applicants presented to the city council, which was followed by a council discussion and public comments. Council member Moore asked the applicants if they provided a living wage and each of the applicants responded that they were either unionized or are committed to providing a living wage. Mayor Landman asked the applicants if they would commit to hire locally, preferentially hiring first from Cotati, then Sonoma County and then elsewhere. Brandon Levine from Mercy Wellness indicated a strong preference for working locally and the other applicants indicated that they would follow this hiring practice and are looking to be good community partners in Cotati. The suggestions from Council Member Moore on providing a living wage and Mayor Landman’s suggestion for local hiring practices were incorporated into the resolutions that the city council unanimously adopted following the public hearing. 

Based on timelines provided by the applicants, it is expected that they will be in operation no later than February 2019. The only exception is the proposed retail site at the former Red’s Recovery Room, which will need to redevelop the property, and would take longer to begin operations. 

In accordance with city ordinances, the microbusiness and volatile manufacturing applicants are required to also get a conditional use permit, due to the higher potential for community concerns. The permits issued by the city are valid for two years. If they are good operators, they can be administratively renewed. However, if there is a history of operational issues, they can be reviewed by the city council and potentially rescinded.

Following the council’s approval of this first round of applications, the city has three indoor cultivation permits, three manufacturing permits and no retail permits remaining. The city plans to issue a second request for proposals later in 2018.

FY 18-19 Budget 

The city council also approved the proposed FY 18-19 budget, which is balanced for the 10th straight year. The city council continued to prioritize economic development, infrastructure and community projects. The adopted budget includes reserves at significantly higher levels than required by city policy, conservative revenue estimates and saving for equipment replacements and unanticipated expenses. 

Highlights of the budget include funding to continue growing the city’s recreation programming, as well as $1.5M in street paving, which continues the heavy investment the city council has placed on road maintenance and repair. The budget also includes an additional $800k in grant funded paving, for a total investment in road maintenance of approximately $2.3M. The Council has also committed significant funding to refurbishing the Community Center, maintenance at city hall and structural preservation of the farm house at Veronda-Falletti Ranch. Other projects include city wide street safety funding, installation of a wayfinding system in Cotati, continuing the school street pathway and completing new lighting in La Plaza Park, School Street Tunnel and the connector pathways at McGinnis and Marsh. 

After the honor of receiving excellence in budgeting awards from both the CSFMO and GFOA last year, the city council commented on the fact that the budget continues to improve in presentation and how the information is organized to make the budget more readable and understandable, so the average person can better understand city finances.