Subscribe for 33¢ / day

In a recent Lompoc City Council meeting, member Jim Mosby requested a discussion concerning whether dance studios can be considered youth centers in relationship to buffer zones near cannabis processing and sales areas. He had previously asked that one such operation be considered for an exclusion zone.

Since Mosby has consistently supported an open and unrestricted marketplace for this product, his request raised alarms among those who operate youth-oriented venues. Was he trying to clear the way for eliminating an exclusion around their businesses?

Looking at the 600-foot sales/processing, and 1,000-foot exclusion zones where smoking or ingesting of cannabis in any form is prohibited, we can see why the industry and users would want many of these zones eliminated from consideration. And with scores of big-time dealers showing up for a recent cannabis-licensing workshop from all over the state, and some properties already having been purchased or leased by dealers, there will be pressure on the City Council to reduce the zones.

Maybe Mosby’s question resulted because the council didn’t include the regulatory definition of a youth center in any of the enabling ordinances, and it needed clarification. But, it is included by reference to state regulations, which they cannot change.

The staff report for the March 6 meeting indicated council members were to consider their input and provide direction. To determine the clientele of the dance studios, “the City Attorney’s Office called each of the five studios and asked what percentage of its business was for minors and for adults,” according to the staff report.

Of the five studios, the lowest percentage of youth served was 80 percent, and the other four were all above 90 percent. So, clearly, this is a youth-oriented business.

The state describes a youth center as “any public or private facility that is primarily used to host recreational or social activities for minors, including, but not limited to, private youth membership organizations or clubs, social service teenage club facilities, video arcades, or similar amusement park facilities.” There are a number of those types of facilities in Lompoc, including church and other social groups.

Two council members lobbied their colleagues to circumvent state law. The Record reported that “Councilmen Victor Vega and Dirk Starbuck both said they thought the city was over-reaching by including dance studios in that definition.” In the past they have used this term to describe many city policies they just don’t like.

But, the City Attorney’s business is interpreting the law and he advised the council he “believes all five of those dance studios meet the definition of youth center.”

And, “Vega went so far as to make a motion to outright reject dance studios from the youth center classification, saying he felt the studios are mixed-use, have limited hours and aren’t at any added risk by having cannabis operations nearby.”

His motion failed in a 2-3 vote, getting support only from Starbuck. Apparently, even Mosby, who routinely votes with them, couldn’t be convinced with their arguments.

Then Mosby tried to argue in a motion that how many hours a week dance studio is open was the metric. He failed to get a second.

Then the Record reports that during the discussion, council member Jenelle Osborne, “who was one of the primary authors of the city’s cannabis ordinance, said she felt like the state’s definition of a youth center was broad and that the city would be best served to lean on the advice of Pannone, its attorney.”

That’s sound reasoning.

Ron Fink is a local activist and can be reached at: