, May 23, 2022

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Vallejo City Council delays decision on appeal from V-Town Farms

  •   4 min reads
Vallejo City Council delays decision on appeal from V-Town Farms
A billboard for V-Town Farms in Vallejo. Photo: John Glidden.

VALLEJO – An appeal from a Vallejo cannabis business seeking to reduce the charitable donation it had agreed to was delayed until September by the Vallejo City Council on Tuesday.

V-Town Farms is seeking to amend a requirement that it donate $600,000 to local non-profit agencies or schools each year, and add additional windows to the front of its business. It currently occupies more than 19,000 square feet inside the old Food-4-Less grocery store in North Vallejo.

While the council seemed supportive of allowing V-Town Farms to station additional guards within the business instead of adding more windows, the council rejected a plea from the business to reduce its annual donation to 1% of gross receipts each year.

“I understand that it’s been a difficult time and a lot of businesses in town have lost revenue and some have barely stayed afloat,” said Councilmember Mina Loera-Diaz, District 3. “However, reducing it to 1 percent for this particular year is not something I would support because I am a woman of my word and when I say I’m going to do something I do it.”

Loera-Diaz suggested that the business should still be on the hook for $300,000 for its first year of operations, then reduce it to 1% of gross receipts moving forward. That suggestion was agreed upon by the council in its vote to continue the item.

“It’s almost like we shook hands,” Loera-Diaz said about the annual donation. A sentiment shared by Vice Mayor Rozzana Verder-Aliga, District 1.

“There was a handshake, trust that you were going to donate that money,” said Verder-Aliga. “The public heard that.”

District 6 Councilmember Cristina Arriola chided Charles Wesley, one of the business owners, for the request to reduce the amount of the annual donation.

“The promise of the money that was going to be divided up to the community in North Vallejo, that was a little misstep on your side,” Arriola said. “But I am willing to compromise if the council so desires to put up a good portion of that half to that.”

V-Town Farms was originally granted a major use permit to operate in March 2021 by the planning commission. Following an appeal of that decision by a rival cannabis business, the city council stepped in.  At a May 25, 2021, public hearing, the council directed city staff to return with revised conditions of approval, which the council approved in June.

During those meetings, V-Town Farms said the initial $600,000 was based on the business doing $60 million in sales, or double what Wesley’s other business Coco Farms does in Antioch. That didn’t happen. Wesley said Tuesday that the business brings in about $700,000 in retail sales, plus an additional $300,000 in packaging and manufacturing revenue each month.

“We didn’t offer it, we agreed to it,” Wesley told the council. “We crossed our fingers, we truly thought we were going to do $60 million, it was in our presentation, we just aren’t doing it.”

Several public speakers expressed support for the business, stressing that it takes time for a new business to build revenue, and that V-Town Farms was being unfairly targeted. They included Wesley’s wife, Sandy.

“You shouldn’t have to attack people that come here to do business with you. You shouldn’t look for ways to chase people off but I think you might have succeeded,” said Sandy Wesley. “He planned to make a lot of money here and contribute a lot to the city. Nobody planned to have it go this way, but it has. It wasn’t done deceitfully.”

Meanwhile, resident Anne Carr said it seemed like V-Town Farms pulled a “giant bait and switch” by agreeing to the $600,000 then asking for it to be reduced.

“Bottom line, they agreed to the figure,” Carr told the council.  

Rhonda Chadwick, who owns a cannabis storefront in town, was critical of the city and V-Town Farms.

“You have given them unfair advantages over me,” she told the council. “I was not allowed to open until I had all of my compliances in order. We weren’t allowed to open until then so they have used you, they tricked you and damaged me.”

Councilmember Pippin Dew, at large, expressed doubt with the 60% transparency requirement required by the city, intended for  law enforcement to be able to see in. However, V-Town Farms argues that adding more windows will invite criminals to break the glass to access the building.

Dew said she wasn’t sure the more glass would make the structure and business more secure.

“Without any actual data to show whether or not transparency is effective in being more safe, I just don’t know why we would burden our businesses to do this if it’s not effective for the purpose we are trying to accomplish,” she said.

Charles Wesley said the requirement would not help with safety or security, instead it would “actually damage the aesthetics of the building.”

Councilmember Hakeem Brown, at large, recused himself due to a conflict of interest. Brown owns a cannabis business in Vallejo.

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