Source: Sacramento Bee (CA)
Author: David Richie -- Bee Staff Writer
Published: Thursday, April 29, 2004
Copyright: 2004 The Sacramento Bee
Contact: [email protected]
Citrus Heights Planning Commission members have sternly criticized the City Council for a recent urgency ordinance that would allow a medical marijuana dispensary 900 feet from a school.
The commission members last week recommended that the dispensaries be set at least 1,000 feet from schools, parks and libraries.
The commission's April 22 recommendation was in response to a proposed 48-word change in the city's zoning codes that would limit where cannabis dispensaries could be located. The zoning change, in turn, is part of the city's work on a permanent ordinance regulating medical marijuana.
Like its urgency ordinance, the council's proposed zoning-code change allows cannabis dispensaries 900 feet from schools and other sensitive uses - 100 feet closer that the commission's recommendation.
Several commission members said zoning ordinances traditionally require that adult businesses be set at least 1,000 feet from schools, parks and libraries. They also noted that 1,000 feet has been established as the perimeter for schools designated as "drug-free zones."
If the commission's recommendation is accepted, it will be a setback for Kevin Gill and Lucille Fisher. They have applied for a business license to operate a medical marijuana shop on Auburn Boulevard, about 900 feet from Sylvan Middle School. Responding to the application, the council on April 14 unanimously approved a temporary urgency ordinance regulating such businesses.
Recognizing that Gill and Fisher had negotiated a lease for the building on Auburn Boulevard, the council decided to lower the distance requirement from schools and other sensitive uses to 900 feet. City staff members had recommended a 1,000-foot limit.
At the council's April 14 meeting, Vice Mayor Bret Daniels and Councilman Jeff Slowey expressed sympathy for people who use medical marijuana. Both mentioned recent experiences trying to help close relatives who faced serious health problems.
The Planning Commission heard speakers complain about the council's decision for more than two hours April 22. Numerous residents decried the idea of medical marijuana being distributed so close to a school. Several also requested that churches be included among the sensitive land uses that would trigger the distance requirement for cannabis dispensaries.
"We strongly disagree with the precedence of building an ordinance around an application," said Jeremy Smith, president of the Northwest Neighborhood Association, in reference to the proposed cannabis dispensary on Auburn Boulevard. Smith said the topic took up an hour at a recent neighborhood meeting.
Andy Borovansky, who lives a few blocks from the site of the proposed dispensary, said its operators should have known the location would be trouble. He also noted that the area is the subject of the Auburn Boulevard Specific Plan. "This is right in the heart of a zone we are trying to redevelop," Borovansky said.
Planning Commission members agreed with the residents that the council had erred.
"I think it was a hasty decision," commission member Dave Cook said.
Commission member James Shelby II, son of Mayor James Shelby, said the main issue was the council's proposal to lower the distance requirement for cannabis dispensaries to 900 feet.
"I think this is kind of a bad practice," Shelby said. "We need to keep this standardization at 1,000 feet."
It is important for the city to establish its rules about medical marijuana, commission member Jayna Karpinski-Costa said. "In the balance, 1,000 feet does not inconvenience the patients, but it makes the residents feel a little safer."
Responding to questions from Gill, City Attorney Ruthann Ziegler said the application for a business license gave him no special standing or "vested right."
Gill said he was confused by the Planning Commission's recommendation: "The City Council says one thing, and a week later, the Planning Commission says something else."
City officials are exercising the city's right to regulate cannabis distribution based on Senate Bill 420, enacted this year. SB 420 clarifies the Compassionate Use Act of 1996, which was approved by state voters.
Gill said other locations may fit the requirements for a cannabis dispensary but that most property owners will not lease space for one.
"It took us two months to find the place on Auburn Boulevard," Gill said.
The commission also heard from several other people proposing to provide medical marijuana in Citrus Heights. Among them was Fair Oaks businessman Rick Fischer, who recently applied for a business license to operate a dispensary in the 7700 block of Sunrise Boulevard.
Fischer said he was worried that distance requirements might disqualify the site for his dispensary, where he proposes to offer medical marijuana users a range of services, including an on-site kitchen and a delivery service.
Fischer stressed his credentials as a successful businessman and the former owner of New York Diamonds, a business that required strong security.
Until recently, traveling to Oakland has been the only option for many local people who use cannabis and do not want to break the law, Fischer said.
In addition to calling for the 1,000-foot distance from sensitive locations, the Planning Commission recommended that approval of cannabis dispensaries require a public hearing and a special-use permit. The temporary urgency ordinance and the permanent ordinance now under consideration give the city manager authority to grant cannabis dispensary permits.
"It would be incorrect to state that the city is allowing or encouraging these dispensaries," Ziegler said. "The reality is that without the urgency ordinance, the dispensaries could locate virtually anywhere in the city."
Related Articles & Web Site:
Medicinal Cannabis Research Links
Medical Pot Law Hazy on Details
Few Complaints About Medical Pot
Council Restricts Medical Pot Sale
Elk Grove Balks at Medical Pot