Unincorporated Riverside County’s first licensed marijuana retail store was granted a permit Tuesday to operate the business in the unincorporated community of Highgrove.
The Board of Supervisors’ 5-0 vote on the conditional use permit and development agreement with The Artist Tree clears the way for the storefront operation to open at 240 Iowa Ave.
“It’s the first cannabis facility in a county of Riverside unincorporated area,” said board Chairman Kevin Jeffries, in response to Transportation & Land Management (TLMA) officials referring to the occasion as a milestone.
The board set a goal in January of potentially permitting up to 19 marijuana shops and 50 cultivation sites in unincorporated communities. Only The Artist Tree weathered the vetting process this year, receiving unanimous approval by the county Planning Commission on last month. More than 100 other entities remain under review.
The board implemented a comprehensive marijuana regulatory framework last fall, setting specific criteria for applicants.
The new pot shop, which also had to procure a state permit to open its doors, will be required to pay the county $158,981 in fees in the first year of operation. Some charges will be re-occurring over the life of the development agreement, which does not have a specified end date. Some of the fees stem from “public benefit” obligations that all future marijuana outlets will be required to meet.
One person spoke in opposition to the business, R.A. “Barney” Barnett, publisher of the Highgrove Happenings community newspaper. Barnett said no one in the area received word about hearings regarding the 2,365 square foot store, leaving no opportunity for adequate public comment.
“My newspaper was never notified,” Barnett said. “We felt we were neglected. We learned about it after the fact, after the planning commission meeting. This is the wrong time and the wrong location. The people of Highgrove didn’t know about this.”
According to TLMA staff, public notice was issued to businesses and residences within 600 feet of the location, as required by county ordinance. The immediate vicinity of the site is occupied by retailers.
According to county officials, The Artist Tree will have 19 employees and operate between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. daily. A security guard is supposed to be on-site during each shift, officials said.
According to Barnett, years ago, an illegal marijuana distribution facility operated in the same space where The Artist Tree is now located.