In the interest of full disclosure, let it be known that the author of this article is married to the Mayor.If a tree falls in the forest, and there is no one there to hear it, does it make a noise? If a man makes a decision, and his wife is not there to correct him, is he still wrong? If National Geographic Television film crew shows up to video a public hearing on medical marijuana (MMJ), and there are more crewmembers present than concerned citizens, is there really a story?
These are the kind of questions one is prone to ask when a crew of seven (two cameramen, three soundmen, a producer, and an assistant producer) show up to film a “multi-part” story on medical marijuana in Lyons. To be completely fair, if you count the three dispensary owners (Sean Welch – Lucky Farms, Read Spear – The Bud Depot, and Matt Rheingold – Headquarters), one dispensary landlord, five elected officials (Mayor Julie Van Domelen and Trustees Ed Bruder, Kathy Carroll, and LaVern Johnson; Trustee Kirk Udovich was there as the commission liaison) and one member of the media (yours truly) with the five or six concerned citizens (only two of whom spoke) there were “technically” twice as many of us, as them.
But I digress; the meeting was aptly described by Trustee Carroll as “benign.” Another word to describe it might have been “confusing.” The members of the Planning and Community Development Commission (PCDC) recognized that since they hadn’t yet firmed up the final acceptable uses and regulations for the Commercial Eastern Corridor (one of the zones being considered for allowing MMJ businesses to locate), they might be lighting the match before rolling the spliff, so to speak.
They also had some questions about if there would be a cap on the number of MMJ businesses, and if so, how many. And if one or two businesses failed or moved out of town, could an equal number replace them. Also up for debate was, if there would be a 1000-foot rule in place, and whether the four current businesses could actually become 12 businesses (since dispensaries, or centers, can also have optional grow operations and infused products manufacturing capabilities). Administrator Victoria Simonsen didn’t seem to think so, citing a moratorium on the issuing of business licenses for MMJ businesses. Udovich also brought up the interesting point that MMJ centers were the only businesses in the Light Industrial Zone being given a “use by right” status, while all other businesses in this zone come under the heading of “conditional use.” He and others on the PCDC pondered the “fairness” of that. At no point in the discussion did the question of the acceptability of MMJ businesses in Agricultural Zones come up (this was a big topic of discussion in earlier PCDC meetings). It was asked, however, if the Board of Trustees (BOT) didn’t enact a cap or 1000-foot rule, would an “overlay zone” be instituted for the Downtown Commercial Zone, and what exactly were the boundaries of that zone. Another query: would existing MMJ businesses already within the overlay and/or 1000-foot rule be “grandfathered” in. And on and on it went. Confusing.
In the end, Planner Danna Ortiz determined, after some back and forth, that MMJ centers would be allowed in Commercial, Light Industrial, General Industrial, and Commercial Eastern Corridor, while optional-off sight grow operations and infused products manufacturing would only be allowed in Light Industrial, General Industrial, and Commercial Eastern Corridor. Commissioner Lorena Christman made a motion to recommend approval to the BOT. Commissioners Russ Huff and Jeff Cornell made a couple of “friendly amendments” concerning the enacting of the “cap issue” and the “1000-foot/overlay” question by BOT. The “friendlies” were seconded; the vote was 5-0 in favor (Commissioners David Lock and Roger Flynn were not present) and Chairman Marty Hine adjourned the meeting.