A rendering of a proposed Stiiizy cannabis dispensary.
A rendering of the proposed Stiiizy cannabis dispensary. (Credit: Shremshock Architects and Engineers)

The Riverside County Board of Supervisors earlier this month voted against allowing a dispensary to open on Temescal Canyon Road in the unincorporated community of El Cerrito over traffic concerns.

“What we’re dealing with, the reality of what it is today, and it is a nightmare today, and I have to ask myself, are we helping fix that nightmare by approving this discretionary use or are we making it worse,” Supervisors Kevin Jeffries said. “I’m leaning today saying this makes it worse, and I don’t know that I can support something that’s going to make it worse instead of make it better.”

Shryne Group, which operates the Stiiizy dispensaries, originally came to the board Aug. 1 to ask that the public hearing be delayed indefinitely.

“There is a request on the table from the applicant to continue this item off-calendar,” John Hildebrand, planning director, said. “It is not clear that this item would come back or when it would come back at all.”

Ultimately, the board decided to hold the public hearing to allow those in attendance to comment on the item since they already took the time to be at the meeting. Those speakers all spoke out against the project, citing concerns about traffic and the location’s proximity to a school.

“Most of us don’t have an issue with the fact that it’s cannabis; it would be the same thing if it was any other business that’s high impact, like a baker[y] or a Starbucks,” Robin Steele said. “Once the road is widened, we won’t have anything to say about it. This road is so dangerous.”

Zipporah Watt, who has lived in the area for several decades, echoed Steele’s sentiments saying the road is dark at night and dangerous for those living in the area.

“For us living directly in that area, it’s been a heavy burden,” she said. “And yes, it would be wrong to increase that burden until we have some alleviation on the traffic and the safety.”

Jose Merlan, principal planner for the county, said the project was originally submitted in 2019 and has gone before the planning commission three times, most recently in May where it received a 2-2 vote with one recusal.

“District 3 and District 4 voted in support of the project as they felt that the traffic issue raised by the public came from outside the neighborhood and that any project would generate traffic,” he said. “District 2 and District 5 voted to deny the project. They felt the project was in the wrong location generally, was too close to sensitive uses — namely the local school — and they also raised issues related to traffic in general and traffic safety.”

Merlan said the county had received multiple phone calls, letters and emails both in support and in opposition to the proposal along with two petitions — one in favor and one against.

Cyrus Pai, director of development for Shryne Group, said that the organization had done “significant community outreach,” and has worked closely with county staff and community stakeholders to redesign the project to help alleviate some of the traffic concerns, including incorporating additional parking, altering the setback to better accommodate future road widening and putting an angled curb at the entrance and exit so as to not allow left turns in or out of the business.

“As experienced operators, we spent a lot of time trying to find the right location that was in a commercial corridor with ample dedicated parking and consistent with the intent of the general plan and we believe we found that at 19700 Temescal Canyon,” he said.

Pai said that with the redesign, Shryne Group had responded to traffic concerns raised and was further working to address traffic concerns long-term by providing $200,000 per year to the El Cerrito road fund and putting language in the conditional use permit that Shryne Group would dedicate a portion of each parcel to the county as part of the county’s road widening project.

“I don’t have any reason to believe that your firm wouldn’t live up to its commitments,” Jeffries said. “You seem to be, you know, a pretty stand up professionally-operated firm, making commitments to help the community, but you’ve picked, in my opinion, what appears to be a fatal location for discretionary use.”

Supervisors ultimately rejected the project 5-0.

In other news: Supervisors have again postponed making a decision on whether Robertson’s Ready Mix has a vested right to mine approximately 657 acres of land near the city of Corona. The postponement came at the request of representatives from both Robertson’s and the Pechanga Band of Indians. The matter is scheduled to be back on the agenda in February.

A video of the meeting can be found here on the county’s website.

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Alicia Ramirez is the publisher of TN News and the founder and CEO of its parent company TN News.