City won’t increase zoning restrictions

MONMOUTH — After a discussion at the March 7 work session, the Monmouth City Council decided not to increase zoning restrictions for marijuana-related businesses.

The council came to a consensus not to move forward with creating exclusion zones. Councilors primarily considered the Main Street District as a possible exclusion zone, prompted by a request by some Monmouth business owners to keep marijuana retail stores out of the downtown area.

Councilor Byron Shinkle said having legal marijuana shops in Monmouth is a “big change in attitude or culture,” especially considering that Monmouth was the last dry town in Oregon, but added that the council would need justification to create more restrictions.

“This is something that, although legal, we don’t want to normalize as a community,” he said.

Shinkle read a statement from business owner Bodie Bemrose about having marijuana retail shops lining Main Street with blacked-out windows, and how that isn’t the feeling Monmouth is going for.

Councilor Tom Steinke asked why the council couldn’t further restrict marijuana businesses on an aesthetic or moral basis.

“We’ve made a giant investment in our downtown, and a lot of our city’s identity is downtown,” he said. “People don’t want to be walking downtown and see big green neon signs, and don’t want that (marijuana) to be associated with going to the park.”

Councilor Jon Carey said he didn’t see the connection between safety for children and a legal retail store.

“The OLCC seems to have put considerable controls on the sale of this stuff,” Carey said. “I hate to tell you folks, if kids are getting this out of a retail establishment, they’re getting it the same way I got a case of beer when I was in high school — I gave money to someone and they went in and bought it.”

Mayor Steve Milligan said the council had established a moratorium on all marijuana shops, including medical, before Measure 91 was passed. He also noted that this is another case of the “vocal minority.”

“We haven’t heard from everybody in the city, we’ve heard from the vocal people about this, and about sanctuary cities,” Milligan said. “We’re trying to determine what’s best for the long-term health of the city based on not 100 percent of the population. Again, that’s yours to wrestle with.”

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