Fresno City Council decides fate of 5 proposed cannabis dispensaries

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The fate of several cannabis dispensaries in Fresno is now clear.

The Fresno City Council Tuesday made the final decision after community complaints about locations that were approved earlier this year.

Five dispensaries that received preliminary approval were on the chopping block today.

The city council listened to hours of public comment and presentations.

"If you allow this facility to open on Minarets and Blackstone, what you're saying to our community is our kids do not matter," said Principal of Pinedale Elementary School Debra Bolls.

Bolls spoke out against a commercial cannabis business proposed just blocks away from the school.

The Superintendent of Clovis Unified School District, Eimear O'Brien, also spoke out and said the location violates the law which requires locations to be no less than 800 feet away from schools.

"The spirit of that law is to protect the young vulnerable children and teenagers who are on their way to and from school on a daily basis," said O'Brien.

The proposed owners and architects, part of the Cookies Lemonnade brand argued since the location is an empty lot, they can create the building far enough away to follow the law.

Nearby business owners argued children are rarely in the area and another business with heavy security would help the neighborhood.

"I believe that the dispensary is actually going to bring some vitality to that area," said Rico Saldivar, the owner of Redwave Tattoo & Barber Shop. His business is across the street from the proposed location.

Following the comments from both sides, Councilmember Mike Karbassi made a motion to deny the permit.

"It's not the application that's the problem. The fact of the matter is the location is the biggest problem and there's just no way of going around that," Karbassi said.

Despite being denied at that location, the Cookies Lemonnade brand was approved for a separate location that was appealed in Fresno's Tower District on the corner of East Fern and North Wishon Avenues.

Another permit that was appealed in Tower District, The Artist Tree, was denied.

It was set to be on Van Ness near E. Floradora.

The owners, who have already been approved for a separate location at Palm and Nees, said they will challenge the decision.

"We're shocked because there also was no public comment that was negative to our business, to our application," said co-found of The Artist Tree Lauren Fontein.

Two other proposed locations, Haven on West Olive and North Vagedes and Public on East Olive and Poplar Avenue, were also both denied.

Councilmember Miguel Arias said there were hundreds of complaints from residents who live in the surrounding neighborhoods and the locations are near schools and parks.

"We've invested intentionally in older neighborhoods, in improving parks, cleaning up the trash and addressing the homelessness and opposing any attempts to saturate any kind of controlled substances for adults in any of these neighborhoods and, for these reasons, I'm going to make a motion to deny both applications." Arias said.

Following Tuesday's appeals, in total, the city of Fresno will have 17 approved cannabis dispensaries.
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