Kenai City Council gives guidance on marijuana issues

Kenai City Council members provided recommendations for the Planning and Zoning Commission to use as guidance for developing marijuana regulations during a Wednesday night meeting.

A questionnaire given to council members asked how the council felt about the sale of marijuana within Kenai in general, whether sale and growing locations should be limited, whether the number of marijuana businesses should be limited and whether the city should allow marijuana consumption clubs. The council members answered unanimously that the sale and cultivation of marijuana should not be prohibited within the city, and also that Kenai should not create a municipally owned marijuana dispensary.

The rest of the questions drew a mixed response from the council members, displaying a need for further information and guidance.

City Manager Rick Koch wrote 12 questions that asked all council members to gauge where they stood on marijuana issues.

Without guidance from the council, he said the Planning and Zoning Commission cannot begin exploring possibilities and making recommendations, which several council members said they would need to see before making a confident vote.

“(The commission) said it would be very helpful to them to have some idea of the council’s opinions and direction as they’re asked to draft some proposed ordinances as to whether we have marijuana establishments, where they would be at, how many there would be,” Koch said. “I thought tonight was a good place to start.”

Koch said there are certain aspects of the marijuana industry that only Planning and Zoning can deal with, such as where marijuana businesses can physically be within the city. At the same time, there are issues only the council can address, such as whether to initiate a sales tax on marijuana. Giving guidance to the commission will allow it to get started on the problems it can solve, Koch said.

Council Member Henry Knackstedt is the liaison for the Planning and Zoning Commission. He said the work session held June 16 to delve into local marijuana regulations left most parties at a loss for where to go next.

“The commission needs to have some sort of direction, some idea,” Knackstedt said. “At this level, I don’t think you can hold anybody to anything other than, ‘This is how we think you ought to go.’ We just need to get the ball rolling.”

Mayor Pat Porter said she plans to introduce a moratorium on any new marijuana establishments in the city until the state’s regulations are finalized.

“What makes this more difficult is the state taking a long, long time,” Koch said. “When (the state’s) regulations come out, they’re going to deal with a lot of the things that we’re going to kick around. You know, how close can you be to a school? How close can you be to parks? I don’t think we adopt anything before the state regulations come out, but I think you have something sitting there that’s pretty ready to go, because there’s not going to be a lot of time before it’s happening.”

Marijuana wasn’t the only topic that drew attention at the meeting. During the city manager’s report, Koch revealed there had been two unsolicited offers to buy airport land. He said after city administration conducted an economic analysis of the offers, they were found to not be in the city’s best interest and were rejected.

During public comment, two representatives of the offers pitched their cases to the council. The council decided to hold a work session to discuss the offers to purchase airport land, which will be scheduled at the next city council meeting.

In addition, the council approved an agreement with Peninsula Pumping, Inc. for the installation of dumpsters and toilets during the upcoming dip net season, which begins July 10. Dumpster service and portable toilets for both North and South Kenai Beach will cost roughly $94,250.

The council also confirmed Porter’s nomination of Patrick “Jack” Focose to the open seat on the Planning and Zoning Commission.

Listed in the agenda’s pending items to be discussed at a later meeting was an ordinance to amend a section of the Kenai Municipal Code to allow up to two members of the Planning and Zoning Commission to be non-residents of Kenai. The members would have to own property or a business within the city.

The next city council meeting will be held at 7 p.m. on July 15 in the City Council Hall Chambers at 210 Fidalgo Ave.


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