Monmouth OKs marijuana zoning

MONMOUTH — Marijuana retail, processing and production facilities have been added to the Monmouth zoning code through a legislative amendment passed unanimously at the Feb. 7 council meeting.

Recreational marijuana in Monmouth sparked an outcry by some residents and business owners upset that the council didn’t advertise the fact that a ban could have been initiated by a ballot measure in the November 2016 election.

Measure 91, which legalized recreational marijuana in the state, passed in Monmouth by a 136-vote margin. Bodie Bemrose, business owner and author of a petition against marijuana businesses in Monmouth, said the voter turnout in Monmouth was small, 2,968 out of 4,534 registered voters.

“A very small minority of people, which represented only 15 percent of our community, supported marijuana recreational sales for Oregon Measure 91,” he said in a statement.

Bemrose laid out additional restrictions for the council to consider, including prohibiting marijuana business in the Main Street District, Commercial Highway Zone, all residential zones, and increase distances allowed from any government building, including schools and day care facilities.

State law prohibits a marijuana business within 1,000 feet of schools. Bemrose’s proposal would increase that to 2,000 feet.

The council discussed including one of Bemrose’s suggestions, prohibiting marijuana business in the Main Street District. Councilors did not entertain all of the suggestions because it would limit marijuana businesses to the south end of town in the industrial area.

Attorney Lane Shetterly said he would defend whatever the council adopted, but it “would be a steep hill to climb” if Monmouth limited access that much.

Councilor Royal Johnson said that the council was not voting yes or no on whether or not marijuana businesses could operate, but where they could locate.

“If we did a no vote on this ordinance, we would make it where businesses could basically come in wherever they could based on our current zoning, which is less restrictive than our amendment,” he said. “If we don’t pass it, they could still come open business here.”

Councilor Byron Shinkle wanted to amend the amendment to prohibit sales in the Main Street District, which would still leave spaces for marijuana businesses in city limits.

“When the statute and the court say be reasonable, they mean it, be reasonable,” Shinkle said.

Shetterly said he would have to come back to the council with the appropriate language in the ordinance, and further public meetings would have to be held including property owners on Main Street.

Councilor Tom Steinke said it would have to go through the entire planning commission process again, potentially delaying any decisions for a few months.

In the end, the council decided to reject the idea of prohibiting sales on Main Street and approved the suggested ordinances, declaring an emergency, which put the new rules into effect immediately.

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