SIDNEY — The Sidney City Planning Commission unanimously voted to recommend the prohibition of cultivation, processing and sale of medical marijuana in Sidney during its meeting Monday. The recommendation will be sent to Sidney City Council.
The commission held a public hearing on the matter in which Community Services Director Barbara Dulworth reviewed House Bill 523. No members of the public spoke.
Dulworth explained the bill permits the cultivation, processing and sale of marijuana for medicinal purposes only, in Ohio, as of September 2016. She said an advisory board was created to generate rules and regulations for the sale of medical marijuana. They will not be fully in place until September 2017, at the earliest. The legislation also allows communities to regulate any or all activities regarding the cultivation, processing and sale of medical marijuana.
Sidney City Council has adopted ordinances for a moratorium in the city for of the cultivation, processing and sale of medical marijuana until Oct. 6, 2017, to allow time to “study the matter” and determine what is best for the community.
Dulworth presented two options for the commission’s consideration for council recommendation: completely prohibit the cultivation, processing and sale of medical marijuana in Sidney, or permit one of more activities in the appropriate district. However, the city staff’s recommendation was to prohibit all three activities in Sidney due to the “unknowns and potential impacts of the various uses related to medical marijuana.”
Commission member Patricia Miller asked Dulworth if she had gone outside of the state for examples of other communities? Dulworth said no, because other states are approaching the use of marijuana differently and it is not like comparing “apples to apples.”
Commission Chair Thomas Ehler asked if federal law prohibits these activities and if the issue is currently going through the court system? Law Director Jeffrey Amick said yes, it is against federal law, and believes litigation is pending in a bottom level court at this time.
Ehler asked for confirmation the “state’s right’s are coming into play versus the federal government.” Amick agreed and said Ohio passed the legislation based on the notion the state’s rights are protected by the Constitution from interference by the federal government.
Commission member Merrill Asher asked Amick if drug stores are prohibited from selling marijuana because federal regulations prohibit its sale? Amick said beyond that, Ohio legislation requires dispensaries to be separate, stand-alone facilities with specific security measures, size and location requirements. He said they are “not intended to be an adjunct part of a drug store.”
Asher also asked Amick how it would affect the hospital if the commission prohibits the activities. Amick said medical marijuana will not be allowed to be dispensed in the city unless a license is granted for the dispensing. The hospital, he said, must be a granted a license to dispense within the permitted zone. He also said regardless of what City Council or the commission does, Ohio is only allowing 80 dispensaries, so Sidney may not even be granted a dispensary license.
Ehler told the Sidney Daily News the commission’s vote to recommend the prohibition of the cultivation, processing and sale of medical marijuana had to do “with a little bit of everything.”
“It just didn’t sit well with the members of the commission; they decided to just leave it alone,” Ehler said.
He said the planning commission is in tune with the Sidney Zoning Board of Appeals and it is their job to look to the future when making decisions for what is best for the community down the road, not just right now.
In other business, the commission granted the request of Wilson Memorial Hospital for the vacation of North Street right of way from Royan Avenue to the western terminus of North Street.
Dulworth said the city normally would not grant the vacation of a right-of-way that is developed as a street, but because this area is basically an access drive, there is no need for it to be publicly maintained. She said the city’s only concern is to ensure the area is maintained for the fire department’s access.
Commission member David Gross asked what is the hospital’s advantage for the vacation to be granted? A Wilson Health representative said it will allow for an additional 50-55 parking spots for their patients.
Gross asked if design plans had been shared with the city? He noted that with the addition of parking, the drive would be reduced and expressed concern about adequate space for the fire department.
The hospital representative said he was unaware if engineers had shared them with the city. He said they are very preliminary plans, but presented a recently obtained rough draft to the commission.
Dulworth said she was made aware of the over-all preliminary design last year when the hospital built the medical office building on the southwest side.
Commission members viewed the design and contemplated whether the fire department would have adequate access. The hospital representative noted a southern driveway will be widened to allow two lanes to and from the hospital. He also said the engineers worked with the fire department when developing the design.
After viewing the design, the consensus among commission was that there would be adequate access for the fire department.
Ehler told the Wilson Health representative he knows they need more parking on that side of the hospital and it would be good if they could help.
Also, the commission approved the revision of the Plum Ridge development final plan to alter building plans for parcels at the intersection of Summer Field Trail and Arthur Court.
Dulworth said the proposed alternate design takes the existing two-story floor plan down to a single-story structure. She said although the overall square footage of the units is very similar, the footprint is significantly changed because all of the square footage is now on one floor.
The proposed revision, Dulworth said, meets the definition of a minor change not involving any public improvements as defined in the zoning code. Because the proposed building was very similar to the approved design she recommended approval of the revision.
Gross asked why the floor plan changed. Dulworth said she believes the change was made because it would be easier to sell.
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