A divided Star Valley council drew a hard line on medical marijuana Tuesday night.
More than half of the council members are staunch opponents of allowing a dispensary in town and pressed for strict regulations.
Ironically, one member of the council hopes to cash in on the business and open his own dispensary.
The possibility of Star Valley getting a dispensary is unlikely, however, the state might choose to issue only one license in northern Gila County, most likely in Payson.
Regardless, the council directed its town manager to draft an ordinance that allows for a dispensary and grow field, but only in certain locations of town.
Under the anticipated ordinance, dispensaries and grow fields will have to sit at least 1,000 feet from churches and schools and 500 feet from residential properties in C-3 commercial zones.
A dispensary owner must also get a conditional use permit (CUP) from the town before opening.
“This doesn’t give them a big opening, but gives them a little opening,” said Councilor Paty Henderson.
Councilor George Binney recused himself from the discussion since he is planning to apply for a dispensary license.
If Binney or anyone tries to open a dispensary, they will likely be confined to the east section of town near Diamond Point. Because of Star Valley’s small commercial corridor, this is one of the only places a dispensary and grow field could operate within the proposed ordinance.
The council had fiddled with the idea of requiring a 1,000-foot separation from residential areas, but Town Manager/Attorney Tim Grier said this would leave no room.
“I think the voter was a bit myopic,” Grier said. “They probably didn’t think about a small town like Star Valley who has a small commercial area.”
If they had, Grier does not believe voters would have selected yes on the proposition, especially if it included the stipulation that the dispensary could open in their back yard.
Since February, the council has struggled to define an ordinance. After Payson adopted its ordinance earlier this year, Star Valley tried to model its own ordnance after it. However, Star Valley does not have an industrial zone in which to tuck away a grow field like Payson nor does it have the space to hide a dispensary.
When the council realized it would not have an ordinance in place before the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) published the final rules for the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act, the council March 15 put a moratorium on issuing dispensary and grow field licenses.
Now with those rules in place and ADHS accepting dispensary applications beginning June 1, the council knew it needed to settle on a proposed ordinance.
“We are in the position now where we need to take a position,” said Councilor Vern Leis.
Binney is one of the few councilors not opposed to a dispensary in town.
Vice Mayor Del Newland, Mayor Bill Rappaport and Councilors Leis and Gary Coon said they are adamantly against the idea, but understood voters had approved the measure.
Taking the council’s direction, Grier will draft an ordinance and present it at an upcoming meeting at town hall.
“The door is open a crack,” said Councilor Barbara Hartwell.
In other news, the council agreed supporting the nonprofit organization Payson Helping Payson would not be a good use of taxpayer dollars.
While the council argued that the organization is a good cause, they did not think public money should go toward individual organizations that do not benefit every resident.
Binney supported the idea of private donations and Henderson encouraged every councilor to donate.
John Zilisch, president of Payson Helping Payson (PHP), said the organization was in desperate need of donations.
“I am coming here with my hat in my hand asking for money,” he said.
Since PHP was founded in 1992, members have worked hard to help every Rim Country resident in crisis with a donation.
These donations usually cover the cost of rent or utilities and are given out to individuals only once a year.
Donations range from $200 to $150 with 350 to 400 people getting help a year.
However, in the last year, Zilisch said they have seen the demand increase dramatically.
“The demand is up this year because people are having problems out there,” he said. “This year, we just aren’t going to make it.”
PHP’s bank account is slowly evaporating and Zilisch said the group would likely go broke by the end of 2011 without enough donations.
After hearing Zilisch’s plea, Doug daCosta, owner of Lazy D Ranch Apartments and RV Resort, pledged $1,000.
“I am so overwhelmed,” Zilisch said. To donate, call (928) 468-9028 or send a check to P.O. Box 231, Payson, AZ 85547.