Flora sets sights on cannabis dispensary, cultivation facility: Proposal submitted to county, just south of Blythe city limits

This graphic shows a diagram of Flora's proposed commercial cannabis project on the vacant property northeast corner of S. Broadway and 16th Ave. in the unincorporated area just outside of Blythe's city limits. (Loaned graphic)

A reported 115 commercial cannabis proposals are currently in ongoing Request for Proposal review at Riverside County’s Planning Department for potential selection and consideration into the first-year process’ next phase.

The deadline for submitted pre-registration project proposals closed in February.

One of those submitted proposals includes a 3.5-acre project on the vacant property northeast corner of S. Broadway and 16th Ave. in the unincorporated area just outside of Blythe’s city limits. That project is helmed by Blythe’s first and only legally operational and commercially licensed cannabis business — Flora.

As previously reported by the Times, Flora currently only operates a local-based distribution and manufacturing operation — not a storefront retail shop — following the Blythe City Council’s March 13, 2018, decision to award Michael and Tom Farrage’s El Rancho Verde LLC project (ranked 4th with a score of 85.29 percent) one of the two-limit available dispensary licenses over Flora (ranked 2nd with a score of 87.73 percent), going against both staff recommendation and the established aggregate scoring application process’ results.

Flora hopes their submitted proposal’s review and following implementation evaluations by Riverside County for the microbusiness license project, just south of Blythe, goes differently.

“County staff are in the process of reviewing and ranking 115 proposals countywide (throughout all unincorporated areas in the county) for interested cultivation, retail or microbusinesses. After reviewing the proposals, recommendations will be provided to the (Riverside County) Board of Supervisors for the top ranked 19 retail and 50 cultivation sites,” stated Riverside County Public Information Officer Brooke Federico to the Times. “After approval from the Board of Supervisors, the selected proposals will proceed with submitting a formal development application during this initial first year of the commercial cannabis regulatory program. The recommendations are tentatively scheduled for the June 25 Board meeting, and the list of the sites recommended by staff will be available when the board meeting agenda is posted.”

Four of the original 119 submitted proposals were nixed for being incomplete or not in compliance with state law. Currently, proposal applicants are awaiting a notification of completeness from Riverside County — tentatively expected sometime in late May.

“The ranking process is the first step in determining which sites will pursue approval of a discretionary conditional use permit. All ranked cannabis development applications will undergo an environmental and public review process, including hearings before the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors, before the county approves any commercial uses,” noted Federico.

As previously reported by the Times, the Blythe City Council has expressed preference for a 25-mile radius commercial cannabis licensing restriction in the surrounding unincorporated area to Riverside County 4th District Supervisor V. Manuel Perez.

Flora’s proposed project to the county currently seeks microbusiness licensure to build the approximately 13,500-sq.-ft. building to house 10,000-sq.-ft. of cultivation space, as well as 2,000-sq.-ft. for dispensary and manufacturing operations.

“The new building is a state of the art LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified green building equipped with solar panels and wind turbines to be totally self-sufficient,” stated Flora owner Travis Pollock. “Also, the property will be lined with trees to reduce visibility to the building, and all proper ventilation will be installed to deter any odors or impact to the surrounding properties.”

As previously reported, Flora previously adopted a four-mile stretch of Interstate 10 highway (two miles on each side of mile markers 150-154), donated a total of $2,000 to the Harmony Kitchen and Blythe Emergency Food Pantry non-profits ($1,000 each), and reached out to local veterans to address any concerns, feedback, and further cultivate the company’s community intents in the area.

Further, in Flora’s Riverside County submitted project proposal, three specific areas of public benefit to the Blythe community are presented for consideration:

• Law Enforcement Volunteering & Funding: “Flora Holding Group would dedicate to providing re-occurring financial commitments to the City of Blythe Police Department (BPD), Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, and California Highway Department of Patrol (CHP). Additionally the entity would participate in fundraising activities and volunteering to support the needs of local law enforcement.”

• Park Improvements (specified as Blythe’s Todd, Miller and Appleby Parks): “Flora Holding Group would like to provide funding and services to enhance the three major parks within the City of Blythe. Constructing new playground equipment, upgrading sports facilities, and assisting with park maintenance would be our goals.”

• Palo Verde Unified School District: “Flora Holding Group would dedicate up to 1 percent of sales to be donated to the Palo Verde School District and utilized as deemed necessary. With the lack of funding necessary to support the school district in the Blythe area giving back to the children of the community is a priority of Flora Holding Groups.”

The Flora project proposal also notes an intent to pay “above 150 (percent)” of California’s current minimum wage, with an intent to hire local employees and contractors.

The property is not located within 1,000-ft. of a public school, community park, identified place of worship, licensed child or adult day care, or youth-orientated businesses — exceeding Blythe’s current 600-ft. public places restriction mandate for commercial cannabis businesses.

“Exterior of building will be painted to blend to the surroundings and architectural design features will be added to bolster its appearance while confirming to the area,” notes Flora’s neighborhood compatibility plan. “An alarm monitoring system and security cameras will be installed throughout property to deter theft and provide a record of anything occurring onsite at all times (and s)ignage will be discreet and plain without any cannabis references or symbols to reduce impact to the community.”

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