Documenter: Matt Taylor
After the calendar items were approved, the discussion moved right into the review of a conditional permit to allow a tobacco store at 690 Fresno St. There was a brief discussion if this business owner was related to another local business owner of a nearby tobacco store. It was decided that these two owners are cousins, but the businesses are separate. After public comments, all of which disagreed with the tobacco store opening, the city council denied the tobacco store permit.
A large amount of the meeting’s time was spent discussing the permit amendments to allow cannabis cultivation outside of an already existing site for GBH Cultivation/Greenbrier Holdings. Public comments from neighbors and local business owners said they feared the amount of smell from the outside growing of cannabis plants. The GBH representative at the meeting said they would seek technology that would mitigate the smell. The mayor of Parlier, Alma M. Beltran, said that the city of Parlier wants to approve this outside cultivation because the increased revenue would support the Parlier police department. The mayor pushed back against public comments against the outside cultivation permit, repeating herself several times in the meeting that the revenue raised from this expanded operation would support the city, so that she wouldn’t have to raise taxes on residents.
The permit amendments for GHH Cultivation/Greenbrier Holdings were approved, the meeting closed to the public and the city council went to a closed meeting to discuss public employment and all positions.
For some who attended in person, the public meeting of the city council of Parlier met at 1100 East Parlier Ave, Parlier, CA, 93648. For other members of the public, they could watch and listen over Zoom conference. As the meeting neared its start, as many as eight other people had joined by Zoom, most of their screens off. Jeff O’Neal, a city planner, had his camera on, and was seen getting ready for the meeting.
The camera on the council floor showed a long desk against the far wall, and at this desk sat the city council. The council’s desk horseshoes along the walls on the left and right side of the room, where more people could be seen sitting. As many as 15 people were in attendance, judging from the chatter off-camera and on the periphery.
Difficulties in this meeting over zoom
Due to really quite horrible audio, it was difficult, and sometimes impossible to understand what was being said. So at many times in this meeting, it became unclear who was even speaking. If a member of the public spoke, the camera would often not show that person. And often, the person speaking would not introduce themselves, or if they did, it was not into the microphone and was lost quite often.
As the meeting began a few minutes after 6:30pm PST, chatter died down. For anyone from the public joining the May 20 Parlier City Meeting over zoom, the audio was muddy and choppy, and visuals jumped around to whoever was speaking.
Joining over zoom conference were these names:
Jeff O’Neal, CIty Planner
Steve Mulligan – Public
Philip Romero – Parlier City Engineer
Bashir Hadib – Public – the attending member seeking approval of tobacco store permit
Bertha Augustine – name shown on general video of city meeting space
Sal Solorio-Ruiz – unstated, but likely councilmember at city of Delano
JT – public
JC Chavez – public
Often, if someone was speaking at the city public meeting space, the sole camera sat so far back in the room that it was nearly impossible to tell who was speaking, unless they used wide gestures.
Despite this, the meeting got underway. There was a very brief role call:
Alma M. Beltran, Mayor *Clearly Present*
Trinidad Pimentel, Mayor Pro tem Council Member District 2 *Clearly Present*
These three members I believe the remaining members at the council desk, as the remaining listed members of the Parlier City Council
Sabrina Rodriguez, Council Member District 1
Diane Maldonado, Council Member District 4
Cathryn “Kathy” Solorio, Council Member District 3
The mayor, Beltran, led the pledge of allegiance, and the meeting began.
Immediately, another councilmember suggested adding one item to the agenda, to add an item 10 to approve a playground structure in the city. The item was added.
Moving along, the council opened the meeting to public comments. A woman from the public stepped up, her name possibly Jennifer but lost in the audio. She spoke about her disapproval of Greenbrier Holdings, the cannabis business in town, which was on the agenda to seek a permit to expand its plant growing operations to involve growing cannabis outside its building space.
Almost immediately, a councilmember interrupted, telling the public member that she should wait to speak about item 5 on the agenda, addressing this permit for the Greenbrier Holdings, until it was brought up. There was some confusion and back-and-forth about when public members were expected to speak, but the public member agreed to wait until the meeting reached item 5.
The council motioned to approve all calendar items on the agenda, including item 1, 2 and 3.
Approve Check Reports dated May 1, 2021 to May 14, 2021
Approve the Minutes dated Regular Meeting May 6, 2021
Approve the city’s participation (installation) of the Veteran’s Banner Project
The council passed the items and moved to item 4.
Item 4 sought approval for a use permit to allow for a tobacco store at 690 Fresno Street. There was some debate if the current owner of the business space was related to another tobacco store located nearby. Ultimately, it was decided that the permit was seeking approval for a cousin to the nearby store, and there was no business connection between the two.
The council opened the meeting for council or public comment.
The business owner seeking the permit, Bashir Hadib, spoke over Zoom. He thanked the city council, and clarified that the store would sell only tobacco, cigarettes, and accessories, and pushed that the license would help the community, and contribute to taxes.
After Hadib finished, a public member named JC Chavez spoke.
Chavez introduced himself as a coach at Parlier High School, and stressed his concern about the influence and health of younger people. He stated that research shows tobacco use often starts in adolescence, and that there are 15 tobacco retailers within 1,000 feet of the high school. Chavez states that permitting this additional tobacco store shows younger people that smoking is acceptable behavior.
Hadib replied that the smoking age had been raised to 21 recently (In 2016, the smoking age was raised to 21, but members of the armed forces could still purchase tobacco products and e-cigarettes at 18 years old)
With no further public comments, the council discussed the permit. Mayor Beltran commented that the city had recently passed a resolution for smoke-free parks near the proposed tobacco shop, and that she didn’t believe it was good for the community.
The item was put to a vote, and the council denied the permit.
The meeting moved to item 5, where the majority of time in this meeting was spent.
Item 5 was regarding amendments to Parlier Municipal Code regarding outdoor cannabis cultivation.
Immediately upon opening the meeting for comments from the council or public, a local business owner stepped up to speak. He said that his business was right next to the cannabis growing site, and that his concern was the odor that would come from growing these plants outside, and about the changes the city has allowed for the cannabis grower. These changes include altering the restrictions to only allow indoor growing to now seek to approve outside cultivation. This public business owner claimed that the city council members were not thinking ahead, and it was hypocritical to not approve a tobacco store, but to approve a cannabis business.
The mayor responded that the revenue that this cannabis growing business will bring to the city will be essential, and that it will subsidize the city budget, and mainly police.
Mayor Beltran spoke:
We have to find ways to build the city, and we can’t keep raising taxes on everyone, she said.
Other measures have failed to pass, she says, and the city of Parlier needs to create a way to pay for its police and city budget.
The local business owner responded that the city is disregarding everyone else to just raise money for the city.
A representative of Greenbrier Holdings stepped up to respond (I was unable to hear or obtain his name. It did not appear to be Jeff Tuel, vice president of sales. It looked more like Marc Garcia judging from this article photo.)
He said, We are not here to be divisive, but we do plan to support the city, he said. We are not here to decide what’s best for individuals, but what is best for the city.
“We are not black market profiteers, we pay our taxes”
We won’t claim there will be no odor, he states,” and continued to say that Greenbrier Holdings would be open to pursue technologies that would reduce the outdoor odors.
The Greenbrier representative spoke further about the extent of security at the business site, that the number of cameras and 24/7 security they hired there only made the location more secure for all of their neighbors, as well.
There was some further back and forth between public comment and the Greenbrier Holdings representative about odor concerns. However, mayor Beltran interrupted to say that the city is discussing this change because the city of Parlier needs to generate revenue, and this is a good way to do it.
Over Zoom, JC Chavez voiced his concerns over the high amount of water usage to grow cannabis, and if the city believes now is a responsible time to approve further cultivation in a time of statewide drought.
The council responded that the water consumption will be metered. It was unclear who spoke because the camera did not show the councilmember responding.
Mayor Beltran repeated that the city is going to find a way to generate revenue from this cannabis cultivation business.
Further public comments asked what happens to the property value for nearby residents and businesses if this item is passed.
The city council responded that the value would increase over time, that the revenue generated from this project would allow the city to not only fund the police, but would allow the general budget to address city cleaning and road repairs.
Mayor Beltran said that $100,000 had already been received in revenue from the current cannabis cultivation model.
The mayor motioned to consider approval to amend the permit to allow outside cultivation of cannabis, and it was cleared. – item 5. The vote count could not be heard over zoom.
Item 6 was cleared quickly, and item 7 concerned approving a new electronic reporting system for the police.
The system would be the Mark-43 system, a fully integrated system and a 6-year contract to license the software
The system would also work with body cameras for the police officers, which mayor Beltran approved of getting for the city’s officers.
Item 7 cleared
Item 8 approved an installment sale and grant between the city of Parlier and California state water resources control board.
There was a verbal mention of a loan for what sounded like $2,328,987 with an unclear amount of interest.
Item 9 sought to approve Greenbrier Holdings a regulatory permit, and mayor Beltran commented further on why she wanted to get the increase in city revenue. It passed.
Beltran, a former police officer, said that inmates would tell her that they wanted to come to Parlier, because there weren’t a lot of cops around. He added that when there are a lot of officers around, you don’t see these people anymore. She thanked the police for keeping the community safe.
The city considered the added item 10 to approve two new playgrounds in the city, and it cleared, 4 yes’s and 2 votes not present.
The city meeting then moved to a closed session to discuss public employment and all employment positions. Public participation ended, and the zoom feed was cut.
Ended at 9:11 pm