Valley News -

By Jeff Pack

Wildomar council passes moratorium on new tobacco, hookah, vape shops


Last updated 6/21/2019 at 3:19am

The Wildomar City Council voted unanimously Wednesday, June 12, to place a moratorium on the establishment of tobacco retailing businesses or hookah or vapor lounges within the city of Wildomar with an interim urgency ordinance.

The ordinance was in response to a hookah lounge that was planned to open in a space within a block of Wildomar Elementary School in a retail space previously occupied by Jolie Day Spa.

“As you know, the city’s code has regulations regarding the licensing of tobacco retailers, but it does not have any regulations regarding the location or distance requirements from sensitive uses such as schools,” City Attorney Thomas D. Jex said. “State law allows cities to adopt a moratorium on the approval of permits to protect against an immediate threat to public health and safety.

“Here the city has received an application for permits from a tobacco retailing business proposed to be located within approximately 150 feet of Wildomar Elementary School,” Jex said.

According to City Manager Gary Nordquist, the owner of the business has not been granted any permits to begin construction on the space but has done so anyway. There was a public backlash to the location of the shop on social media before the meeting.

“During that time of the moratorium, staff will study options for a potential amendment to the zoning code to be considered first by the planning commission and then by the city council regarding possible distance requirements or other potential regulations on tobacco retailers and hookah and vapor lounges,” Jex said.

Three public speakers were permitted to talk to the council.

“While I am in favor of a distance requirement for a number of businesses, this action is reprehensible as it's like changing the rules in the middle of the game,” resident Kenneth Mays said. “If you are unhappy with this business in this location, you should have never let them start the process. At the very least you could have called for a special council meeting immediately after the last council meeting rather than wait four weeks.

The fact is you did nothing for 11 years, not until citizens started making noise and complaining on Facebook and in emails,” Mays said.

Resident Gina Castanon urged the council to just go ahead and make an amendment to the already-existing tobacco rules.

“I don't agree that the vape shops should be there, but you shouldn’t put a moratorium and not allow him to find another location,” she said. “Because again, you have a precedent. There have been hookah lounges here, you have liquor stores that carry tobacco products.

“There’s a liquor store that’s very close to the elementary school. I agree it shouldn’t be there, but again, you need to do something instead of researching it, just amend it and let business continue in Wildomar or ban all tobacco products,” Castanon said.

The council voted unanimously to impose the moratorium.

“I think we need at least the 45 days to update our ordinance,” Mayor Marsha Swanson said. “As was said, he was not issued permit started work without any kind of license permit or anything. So, I think we need this time.”

The council also appointed five people to the Measure AA Citizen’s Oversight Advisory Committee.

Councilmember Dustin Nigg was tasked with choosing from a list of eight candidates, announcing five that he thought would be fit for the job. Councilmember Joseph Morabito added one to the list, saying he wanted to have a contrasting voice on the committee.

“I kinda kept the logic of we have current members of Measure Z that applied for an oversight committee for Measure AA,” Nigg said. “I like the idea of synergizing and economizing efforts. If they’re doing a good job – and they’re doing a good job – we know the work we’re getting, so there’s less risk from my standpoint or the standpoint to bring them in.”

In the end, Douglas Ames, Shelley Hitchcock, Brian Jacobs, Carl Regalado and Sheila Urlaub were voted in unanimously. Morabito’s nomination of Monte Goddard was not seconded by the council.

The council also appointed two councilmembers to serve on a temporary ad hoc Cannabis Subcommittee aimed at helping city staff to draft regulatory ordinances and permitting procedures for cannabis enterprises in the city.

“The idea of trying to stop it now by refusing to regulate it, we know from experience isn't going to work,” resident John Lloyd said, voicing his support for regulation. “Why give away this new ability to regulate its impact on our community now that we finally can regulate it? Turning a blind eye has never worked before and I don’t see that it’s going to change. The majority of the population of Wildomar voted to legalize cannabis. It’s now totally within our right and our responsibility to regulate it and stop letting the criminals regulate it for us.”

Castanon asked if the meetings would be open to the public, whether there would be members of the community on the committee, and addressed the cost associated with the committee and decision-making by the council on the subject.

“I encourage you to move forward quickly and regulate cannabis,” she said. “I agree with all of John’s comments and I look forward to engaging in conversations to regulate the industry.”

Councilmembers Dustin Nigg and Bridgette Moore were voted by the council to lead the committee.

Nigg and Moore have been on opposite sides of the issue, with Nigg in favor of a regulated cannabis industry within the city and Moore opposed.

“I hope that you two can work together to find a middle ground of all the different issues,” Councilmember Ben Benoit said. “Hopefully it's not just a three-two vote at that point, so we can all move forward. So, I think that's a great thing to do. I fully support that.”

The council also unanimously approved the consent calendar.

The calendar included approval of Warrant and Payroll Registers, approval of the Treasurer’s Report for April 2019, the adoption of a resolution accepting the Mission Trail/Sedco Sidewalk Project 1 and authorized the city engineer to execute a cooperative funding agreement with Elsinore Valley Municipal Water District for a reimbursement in the amount of $3,000 for water service facility adjustments and relocations that were performed during the construction phase of the project.

They also approved the levy and collection of special taxes within community facilities district No. 2013-1 for fiscal year of 2019-2020, approved an amendment to the Planning Commission bylaws and approved a resolution approving a license agreement between Wildomar and the Building Industry Association of Southern California to establish a directional kiosk sign program for residential developments.

The council also approved the Wildland Fire Protection Agreement for 2019-2020, declared a vacancy on the Planning Commission, adopted a resolution for Landscaping and Lighting Maintenance District No. 89-1-Consolidated and Street Lighting Zones and approved a resolution adopting community service area charges.

The council also considered territory to be annexed to community facilities

District No. 2013-1 and approved the staff recommendation of confirming the report of delinquent trash accounts and request that the delinquencies be placed on the property tax roll.

In other business, the council approved the Fourth Amendment to the franchise agreement between the city and Waste Management and authorized the city manager to sign it.

Councilmember Benoit nominated Bri Bernard of Carlson Strategic Land Solutions to serve on the city’s planning commission, and she was approved unanimously.

Jeff Pack can be reached by email at [email protected]


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