Soldotna council hears frustration over competing marijuana ordinances

  • By Rashah McChesney
  • Wednesday, November 11, 2015 10:06pm
  • News

Public hearings on three ordinances in Soldotna should help the city plan its policy on commercial marijuana usage within city limits.

Soldotna Mayor Pete Sprague introduced an ordinance establishing the city as a local regulatory authority; member Regina Daniels proposed a moratorium on commercial marijuana sales within city limits and Keith Baxter proposed regulating commercial marijuana by limiting the number of retail outlets in the city and putting restrictions on cultivation and manufacturing.

The city must establish itself as a local regulatory authority to receive a portion of the fees charged by the state to businesses involved in marijuana commerce. Daniels’ moratorium, if enacted, would last for two years and would allow no marijuana business within the city before Jan. 1, 2018, according to the ordinance.

Baxter’s ordinance would allow no more than three retail marijuana stores within the city limits and would allow one marijuana growing facility and one manufacturing facility. Both would have to be located on the same premises as a retail marijuana store. There would be no limit on the number of marijuana testing facilities within the city under Baxter’s ordinance.

“This ordinance does not endorse or encourage the recreational use of marijuana. This ordinance is intended to enact prudent restrictions on the number and type of marijuana-related businesses within our city limits in order to both respect free enterprise and protect the character of our community,” Baxter wrote in his memo to the city.

At least one council member was displeased to see competing ordinances on the agenda and she, in part, blamed the city’s administration.

Linda Murphy asked City Manager Mark Dixson why the ordinances — which were drafted in September — had not been sent out to council members per their request during a special session.

“I just found out that you’d had them for well over a month, but the council was not made aware of them,” Murphy said during the council’s Tuesday meeting.

Dixson apologized to Murphy.

“It wasn’t that I was trying to hide them or keep them or keep the subject matter internally. I probably should have sent them out, but quite frankly I was working on a bunch of other things. I guess that wasn’t at the top of my list of things to do and I just kind of set it aside,” Dixson said. “In the future, when I get things like that, I will disseminate them.”

After the meeting, Murphy said the council had requested the ordinances from the city’s attorney and she assumed that the body had not received them yet.

But she said she then learned city administrators had the ordinances and sent one of them to one council member but did not distribute the others.

“It shouldn’t be typical,” she said. “The council requested them, we should have received them as soon as he received them.”

Murphy said she believed it was confusing to have contradictory ordinances on the agenda and believed that council members could have held another work session or have a discussion at a council meeting to work on some of their differences.

“I don’t think (the ordinances) would have come forward at the same meeting,” Murphy said.

Dixson and City Planner Stephanie Queen said the ordinances had been held by city administration because they were not complete.

Queen said the city had planned to take whatever ordinance the attorney drafted and send it through a public hearing at the Planning and Zoning Commission before bringing it back to the city council.

“When we got the draft ordinances … it had nothing touching the zoning code. Neither one did. If we’re going to allow commercial marijuana, we’re going to have to change the zoning,” Queen said. “Internally, we had a conversation with (the city attorney) and said, ‘Here’s the extra things that also need to be dealt with.’”

Queen said typically the city council allows ordinances that contain zoning language to go through planning and zoning before they’re heard at the council, though that is not a formal policy.

Zoning language has not yet been added to any of the city’s marijuana ordinances, as Queen said administrators are now in “wait-and-see mode” to determine if council will ban commercial marijuana within city limits outright.

“If that ordinance … ends up passing, we won’t need to schedule any meetings. It’s not allowed and we don’t need to fix zoning code to allow it,” she said.

 

Reach Rashah McChesney at rashah.mcchesney@peninsulaclarion.com or follow her on Twitter @litmuslens

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