Wall to wall: Ordinance sets spacing rules for dispensaries

To prevent the clustering of medical marijuana dispensaries on one city block, city officials have adopted a minimum spacing requirement.

Monday night Claremore City Council met and approved an exterior wall-to-exterior wall spacing requirement of 300-feet on medical marijuana dispensaries within city limits.

Background

"In June of 2018 State Question 788 was approved to allow medical marijuana businesses in Oklahoma. With that, there was specific restriction on zoning laws for retail marijuana establishment. It says that 'no city or local municipality may unduly change or restrict zoning laws," said City Planner Jill Ferenc. "Several months after that the city incorporated medical marijuana dispensaries into Use Unit 13, which is basically a convenience good or service, like a pharmacy.

So we're treated them the same, they're allowed in all commercial zoning districts."

The proposed ordinance

"What's being proposed tonight is a minimum spacing requirement of 300-feet between the dispensaries to prevent the clustering of them within one block," she said. "As a point of comparison, in our zoning code we have a 300-foot minimum spacing between other businesses such as blood banks, plasma centers, day labor hiring centers, liquor stores and pawn shops."

Ferenc said one of the requirements to be considered an established business within this ordinance, is that a dispensary must submit a certificate of occupancy application to the city of Claremore.

"The dispensary must also be issued the certificate of occupancy within 180 calendar days from the date the application was submitted. In order for a certificate of occupancy to be issued, the business must be in compliance with all building, fire, and city codes in order to occupy and use the space for the dispensary use. This includes city review and passing an inspection from the Building Inspector and Fire Marshal before a certificate of occupancy is issued," she said.

Ferenc said when this went to the Planning Commission for public hearing, on Nov. 5, there were six individuals present to speak on the issue

According to Ferenc:

• One was a dispensary owner Dustin Blackman, he said he supported the ordinance and recommended the distance be more, closer to the city of Tulsa standard of 1,000 feet.

• Dale Peterson spoke and said he is not in favor of dispensaries, especially those across the street from each other in downtown.

• Angela Adams stated that she is a dispensary owner in favor of the ordinance. She recommended the effective date of the ordinance be moved up (which it has).

• Carrie Bohanon said she is in favor of the ordinance, that the minimum spacing should be greater and the deadline should be moved up.

• Kim Dole stated that she owns a grow business and is planning on opening a dispensary. She felt like the 1,000 foot minimum like Tulsa has is too far and recommended a happy medium between 300 and 1,000 feet. She also recommended the effective date be moved up.

• Nancy Jams said she has worked to open a dispensary for the past four and a half months not knowing that one was going to open across the street from her current business that she has owned for 10 years.

She said city staff and the Planning Commission unanimously recommend approval with the adjusted the effective date of the ordinance.

"I'm also disappointed it's not longer, the spacing. Tulsa is 1,000, 300 is a third of that. We're a smaller town and that just means we can have more dispensaries, and they're closer together. I'm really disappointed," said city councilor Justin Michael, the first to speak on the issue. "1,000 would be great, but I would have even liked to see 600"

Attorney Brian Calendar explained that the city chose the 300-foot requirement based on precedent. Within the city's existing spacing requirements, the maximum currently in the books is 300-feet. To treat dispensaries different than the businesses in the category could open the city up to litigation.

"Then let's just raise the whole category to 500-feet. We don't need that many pawn shops anyway either," Michael said, eliciting a response from a fellow councilor of, "Tell that to a pawn shop owner."

City council members were reminded that a city block is just over 300-feet and that this spacing requirement is 300-feet in any direction.

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