Hoping to keep itself clear of any controversy, the Star Valley Town Council directed its town manager/attorney to draft a medical marijuana ordinance similar to Payson’s recently approved plan.
Like Payson’s, Star Valley’s ordinance would likely limit dispensaries and cultivation facilities to commercial or industrial zones without a conditional use permit (CUP).
Star Valley is leery of requiring a CUP because it would mean holding a public hearing and getting involved in the discussion on whether a dispensary is allowed and on what conditions.
“If we have a conditional use permit, then it comes before council and it is a hot button issue,” said Star Valley Mayor Bill Rappaport. “And that is exactly what Payson wanted to avoid.”
Star Valley’s ordinance will likely follow suit of other cities and towns in Arizona that have grappled with how to enact reasonable zoning regulations that restrict marijuana dispensaries to specific areas.
In Star Valley, the issue of location is especially important because the town has a relatively small commercial zone off Highway 260.
The town has no area zoned for industrial use.
Councilor George Binney did not participate in discussion on the ordinance because he said there “may or may not be a conflict.”
“I think it is a legitimate endeavor and I have two other businesses that I keep separate from town hall and I believe I could keep this from town hall,” he said. “So there may be some financial investment.”
Despite rumors that he had met with dispensary investors, Rappaport said he would not get involved with the business.
“I take the role of mayor seriously and I would never do anything derogatory to the town or this office,” he said.
Vice Mayor Del Newland said he opposes the new law and did not want to see a dispensary in town. Councilor Gary Coon agreed, calling the new law “a can of worms.”
In the last election, Arizona voters narrowly approved a proposition that decriminalizes marijuana for medical use. Local governments can regulate where the drug is sold.
By the end of March, the Arizona Department of Health Services should finalize a regulatory system for distribution. When that happens, 124 dispensaries will pop up throughout the state, two likely in Gila County.
It is unknown if Star Valley will have a dispensary, but Rappaport believes it will go to Payson since it has a larger population.
Regardless, the Star Valley council said it must adopt an ordinance in case the state issues a license.
“We need to put something in place and we need time for Tim (Grier) to come up with the best protection,” said Councilor Barbara Hartwell.
Councilor Paty Henderson said she recognized the value of medical marijuana. Her late father-in-law could have used it when he was dying. However, Henderson said the town must guard its residents and adopt an ordinance before a dispensary moves in.
Grier pulled together seven marijuana ordinances from around the state and asked the council to pick which ones it liked.
“There are as many options as there are cities and towns,” he said.
While other towns have raced to adopt ordinances, Grier said Star Valley has sat on the sidelines.
Some time ago, Grier asked independent consultant Terry Smith to draw up a proposed ordinance for the town. Smith’s plan is stricter than Payson’s, asking for 1,000 feet of separation from a church, school, park or residential zone instead of 500 feet. Smith also specified 2,000 feet of separation from other dispensaries instead of 1,000 feet.
The council asked Grier to combine Payson’s and Smith’s plan into one ordinance.
Once drafted, the town will hold two public hearings before the council votes.