Rolling out the red carpet for a green business, the Calexico City Council authorized a cannabis cultivation and manufacturing business to begin operations at a special meeting on August 22.
Echoing sentiments of the moderate crowd in council chambers Mayor Pro Tem Jesus Escobar acknowledged the council's action was aimed to spur economic development.
“This will diversify Calexico's economic sector, create long term jobs, energize a burgeoning sector of agriculture and generate taxes to support education ... that's what it's all about," said Escobar.
Added Council Member Armando Real, "For a long time Calexico has had the reputation of a place where it's hard to do business. But with this decision Calexico jumped to the number one spot as the most
progressive in Imperial County. The city is open for business."
In a 4 to 0 vote in favor, with Council Member Maritiza Hurtado absent, the council approved an environmental impact report for Trinity Property Company, LLC. They also adopted a mitigation and monitoring reporting plan and a development agreement between Calexico and Trinity for the establishment of a cannabis cultivation and manufacturing facility within the city's cannabis overlay zone.
Screening a PowerPoint show Melanie Halajian of Ericsson-Grant the firm conducting the EIR offered arguments to support Trinity's efforts to abide by California Environmental Quality Act regulations. The EIR analyzed: hazards and hazardous materials, air quality, hydrology and water quality, geology and soils, climate change and green house gases, biological and cultural resources, energy use as well as noise.
The summary in part concluded green house gases emissions could be mitigated to less than significant levels with implementation of mitigation measures. Mitigation monitoring and a reporting program were prepared to ensure measures are implemented at appropriate times during construction and operation.
But during public comments Rebecca Davis, representative of Laborers International Union of North America, Local 1184 (Riverside) declared the EIR inadequate for failure to analyze electrical infrastructure as well as necessity of a new utility substation.
"The developer (Trinity) will generate 28,000 tons of CO2 a year and there is no way to enforce CEQA if they choose not to do so," said Davis. "The EIR failed to study the impact on the diversity of wildlife species among other measures and we seek revisions."
But Real countered, "I've toured cannabis facilities in Coachella and Desert Hot Springs and neither did an EIR at all. Calexico is doing this the right way and going through all the hoops."
Mayor Lewis Pacheco remarked the proposal pumps energy into the job sector and then asked for a motion to vote, which passed unanimously in favor.
Trinity CEO James Irwin Jr. said the approval was fantastic. "It's the culmination of a tremendous amount of work by Calexico and me, I'll be 100 percent dedicated to this endeavor."
Irwin went on that after decades running other businesses, this will be his first venture in cannabis activities. Phase 1 of operations will be completion of renovations to the 2421 Enterprise Boulevard facility. It will generate $750,000 in annual taxes for Calexico and initially employ 18 to 20 persons but after a full build out (three other facilities and a transportation center) projects up to 100 jobs.
"Manufacturing starts in one month (2421 Enterprise Boulevard only) with extraction of oils to create tropical lotions and creams and oils to use in vape pens." said Irwin. "Cultivation will begin in January 2019, selling flowers and pre-rolls (joints)."
He also noted Trinity will sell to sixty legal dispensaries in San Diego, Los Angeles and Orange Counties. Phase 2 begins construction in June 2019 expecting completed facilities by January 2020.
"Eventually I'll expand to edibles but that will take time to develop," said Irwin. "I'm trying to get all the wheels working and well oiled before expansion."
Regarding criticism of the EIR, Kevin Grant, principal of Ericsson-Grant the firm handling the report that Davis' objections came a month after the public comments period had closed. There was also other opportunities to oppose the proposal, starting last summer during the "scoping period."
In addition several letters were submitted corroborating the adequacy of the EIR noted Grant. Imperial County Air Pollution Control District explained that 97 percent of the green house gases from energy production were pre-mitigated at the provider level, namely Imperial Irrigation District, who also submitted a letter in favor.
"Because it was pre-mitigated there was no further requirement for further attention," said Grant. "But Trinity went above and beyond. They staggered grow room schedules to avoid energy peak loads (popular times of day for electrical use). They're recycling 70 percent of their water. And they're implementing solar and wind
energy to reduce electricity use. "We're completely neutral," said Grant. "We provide information- good, bad or indifferent to the city council and public and they make the decision."