A controversial re-zoning request was a debated before the Rogers County Commissioners after being denied by the county planning commission.
More than 15 people filled the commissioner's meeting room to discuss a rezoning related to a medical marijuana dispensary in Rogers County.
Anthony Bostik, the applicant, was not satisfied with the planning commission decision so he filed an appeal and his circumstance was heard by the commissioners.
Bostik is the owner of two tracts of land, which vhe is seeking to combine into one 10 acre tract and re-zone as agricultural to continue his existing medical marijuana grow operation.
Christina Vaughn, attorney for Bostik, was first to address the commissioners. She said the planning commission meeting included conversations of "hypothetical situations with no real proof" and that the complaints came from people who lived more than 1,000 feet from the property in question.
"Mr. Bostik owns 10 acres of property in a rural area," Vaughn explained. "This is not a dense residential area… Four of his acres are zoned as ag. His residence and the small outbuilding he uses for his grow operation are on that tract. The six contiguous acres is presently zoned as residential."
She said she refused to refer to the other property owners objecting to the zoning change as neighbors, as some life a quarter to half mile away.
Vaughn said in the planning meeting she observed misconceptions that Bostik planned to develop a larger, outdoor grow operation. She said people likely came to this conclusion due to "not understanding why he would need 10 ag acres for a small outbuilding.
"We know Mr. Bostik only needs those acres to comply with ordinances," she said. "He does not intend to have an outdoor grow, or expand his indoor grow from the existing size."
She said the existing building is 52-square feet.
Vaughn said her client, Bostik, would be willing to accommodate some conditions if the commissioners would approve his request.
"The conditions being that first, he does not begin an outdoor grow. Two, that he does not expand his current indoor grow operation. Three that the property revert back to residential in the event that he sell the property and that the property automatically revert to residential in 10 years," she said, adding that the conditions are meant to accommodate future development.
She said the grow operation is fully licensed and meets all state standards and that it has been in operation for more than one year.
She refuted allegations that the grow operation would cause a decline in property values in the area.
"Denying the rezoning request won't stop cannabis. It will just cause a good family to lose their investment in their business which, at a time like this, is the last thing that should happen to anyone," Vaughn said.
James Kemp spoke next. Kemp said he bought his property specifically because it was not business or commercial. He refuted the attorney's claim that the houses had been there a long time.
He said he was part of purchasing 14 acres recently that will remain residential–refuting the attorney's claim that the majority of the area is isolated and agricultural.
"The size of the grow isn't relevant," Kemp said. "But it sets a precedent that if you can hide it long enough, it will be fine…There’s no proof of compliance. It has not been presented to us that he is even in compliance."
David LaRue and wife Lavonne said they live directly next door to the Bostiks.
He read from the Rogers County zoning code as it relates to general purpose of residential districts.
"Mr. Bostik's commercial business is currently in RS60 zoning violation and should be removed," he said. "He shouldn't even be operating a business there by the zoning regulations.
Karen Trude spoke in defense of Bostik and his business.
"By what standard do you make your decisions? Facts, rule of law, constitutional rights or mob rule? This is about our freedom. The hysteria claims that several neighbors are in fear so much that one neighbor has to move because they're facing retaliation from the Bostiks. That's how far this hysteria has gone," Trude said. "They've had their business for a year. No one knew it for a year because it impacted nobody. Not one child has died. No neighbor has been hurt. No property owner has been inconvenienced and the property owner has not declined. There's not been one complaint made in a year, why? It didn't impact anybody. No one. That's the facts of this case….but you can't reason with hysteria."
Three more individuals addressed the commissioners in objection of the re-zoning.
After hearing lengthy conversations, Commissioner Ron Burrows said, "The issue at hand here is zoning. It has nothing to do with the industry. That industry was set by a vote of the people so there's nothing that this board is going to discus about the industry."
He said the commissioners rely heavily on the planning commission to do the research for them, as that's why that board is in place.
Commissioner Steve Hendrix said this property falls within his district.
"These concerns are very common. It really doesn't make any difference whether it's a new cell tower going in, a new road or highway, a new subdivision, a new business—we hear these same concerns over and over again about any zoning change," he said. "And most of these, frankly, are unfounded concerns. They're just fears and reasons to object. They don't carry a lot of weight."
Hendrix said Bostik had done his "level best" to be in compliance with all county and state standards.
"This is the eastern portion of Owasso. This is the fastest growing residential area in northeast Oklahoma, and maybe the whole state…There are changes coming," Hendrix said. "The biggest issue for me is the aspect of backwards zoning in this fast growing area. To go back to agricultural, in my opinion, does not fit what's happening in this area…It's not conducive to the growth of this residential, heavily populated portion of Owasso. Backwards zoning is not something that's very common for us to do."
Commissioner Dan Delozier added, "To go back to AG would be going backwards..and we're not going that direction."
The commissioners said that as the requested zoning does not meet the use of the area, the appeal was denied.