A one-year closure of Linoberg Street between Washington and Stewart streets and a 15 percent tax on the gross sales of unauthorized cannabis businesses will be considered by the Sonora City Council at a public meeting on Monday.

The Vision Sonora Design Committee will ask the council for approval to close the small portion of Linoberg Street to vehicle traffic for a one-year trial period so that it can be used as a pedestrian walkway and gathering space.

“The committee felt this way people could experience the closure and how great it would be before the council made a final decision,” said Councilwoman Connie Williams, chairwoman of the committee.

Williams added that the city could still at any point decide to shut down the street permanently, but that would require a separate vote at a future public meeting.

The council approved a document in January declaring the project would not have a significant impact on the environment, but has yet to OK the closure of the street. Williams said the committee decided to ask for the trial closure at its meeting last month.

This comes more than five years since the council adopted the Vision Sonora Plan in late 2013 that included the closure of Linoberg Street as one of the projects aimed at improving the aesthetics of the city and making it more pedestrian friendly.

The proposal has been included as part of the city’s General Plan since the 1980s, but past councils have denied the closure every time it’s been brought up out of concern that it would affect traffic flow in the downtown area.

Williams said the portion of street is among the flattest in the city, so people who have trouble walking would benefit from the closure.

Any improvements installed along the section of the street during the trial period would be portable, such as potted trees at each end of the street to prevent vehicles from entering.

There would also be overhead security lighting, benches, a rebar tree with vines for shade. The street surface would also be painted, while the design committee would continue working on plans for a mural on the south wall of the street.

Anybody who wants to host an event on the closed street would still need to apply for a special-event permit through the city.

The council will also consider adopting a resolution on Monday that would impose a tax of 15 percent on the gross sales of cannabis businesses operating within the city without a development agreement.

In early 2018, the council approved a three-year pilot program to allow certain types of cannabis businesses — including medical-only dispensaries — as long as the operator entered into a development agreement with the city.

Hazy Bulldog Farms, LLC, was the first to get approved for a development agreement and opened the city’s first fully permitted dispensary that can legally sell cannabis for medicinal use only to people who are 21 and over with a valid doctor’s recommendation.

The agreement requires the dispensary to submit to annual inspections, random audits, and pay the city $10,000 a month or 5 percent of gross revenue, whichever is greater, though it is not subject to a tax on sales.

New regulations recently adopted by the California Bureau of Cannabis Control allow the drug to be sold by delivery from a state-licensed operator even in cities and counties that ban such activity,

The ordinance that established the city’s pilot program required that any delivery sales could only be done by a city-authorized dispensary.

Last month, the council voted in closed session to initiate litigation against the bureau over the new regulations. City Administrator Tim Miller said on Wednesday that the date for filing the lawsuit and the estimated cost are still being worked out.

Contact Alex MacLean at amaclean@uniondemocrat.com or (209) 588-4530.



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