Sunday, May 1, 2011

Chandler OKs medical-marijuana cultivation site

The Chandler City Council Thursday night said no to a medical-marijuana dispensary at Dobson and Frye roads, but it said yes to growing the drug indoors south of Chandler Boulevard and east of 56th Street.

The cultivation site will be at 6730 W. Chicago St., in west Chandler near I-10, if the applicant wins state approval. That city permit had been requested by Arizona Organix, a non-profit corporation run by Phoenix resident Bill Myer, who owns a real estate license, and his son, Ben, a 2005 graduate of Arizona State University.

The council unanimously denied the request for a permit for a 1,500-square-foot retail site across from Chandler Regional Medical Center because the site is too close to homes and because the council feared setting a precedent by approving what city attorney Mary Wade called "minor deviations" from the city ordinance.

The ordinance requires a dispensary be a quarter-mile, or 1,320 feet, from day care centers, parks, schools, churches, libraries and hospitals.

Council members weren't so concerned that the proposed retail site was about 521 feet from Chandler Regional Medical Center, but the dispensary would have been about 191 feet from the closest single-family home north across Frye Road. It would have been about 210 feet from a multi-family complex to the west.

Council member Matt Orlando opposed the dispensary, explaining, "We still have two neighborhoods within 500 feet, and another concern is precedent. . . . If we deviate from our standards . . . before you know it, we have no standards."

Council member Jeff Weninger said he had met with the applicants, who have backgrounds in medical fields.

"They don't seem like Cheech and Chong; they seem professional," he said.

But he had consulted with city attorney Wade as well, and he said, "Legally it could get us in trouble with proximity to homes."

Council member Jack Sellers said he was concerned about the precedent with the distance from homes, and Kevin Hartke said, "I would not be comfortable with the distance to the residences across the street."

Before the vote, one resident spoke in opposition to the dispensary. That was Charles Cordner, who lives directly across Frye Road to the north.

He said the dispensary would make the neighborhood unsafe, that people who were "high" would be driving through and property values would drop.

Cordner said the dispensary would be a magnet for crime.

"It will be robbed; it will be burglarized, no doubt. With cash and drugs, there's going to be violence."

The permit for the dispensary had been requested by McNatt LLC, owned by business partners Darrell and Vicki Tannatt and Jay and Anita McClintock. After the meeting, Anita McClintock, who would have managed the dispensary, had no comment other than to say, "We're not sure what we'll do."

Vicki Tannatt was troubled that Cordner, the homeowner and opponent, had not shown up at an earlier neighborhood meeting about the proposed dispensary.

Besides Anita McClintock, two others spoke in favor of the retailer - the landlord, who said the dispensary was a good fit with other tenants, and Brad Harper of Scottsdale, whose late wife suffered from breast cancer.

"I wouldn't characterize her as a danger to the neighborhood," he said. "She couldn't even drive."

Some council members indicated concern about Chandler residents growing their own marijuana. If an Arizonan authorized to use medical marijuana lives more than 25 miles from a dispensary, he or she can grow it at home in a locked room or a fenced yard.

If neighboring cities allow dispensaries within 25 miles of Chandler residents, that would stop self-supply in Chandler.

Senior city planner Jodie Novak was asked where dispensaries had been proposed in neighboring cities.

She said Gilbert is scheduled to consider applications for dispensaries north of Elliot and west of McQueen road, and another one south of Baseline and east of McQueen Road -- both within 25 miles of Chandler residents.

Sixty-four Chandler residents already have cards authorizing them to grow their own medical marijuana, said Laura Oxley, spokeswoman for the state Department of Health Services.

The cards were issued as valid for a year, but if dispensaries open within 25 miles of their homes this fall, it's conceivable the state could revoke the permission to grow their own because the law is still in a state of flux.

Oxley said 24 residents own cards in the district known as Chandler Northwest, and 40, in Chandler Southeast.

Since the marijuana retail site was denied at Dobson and Frye, it's possible Chandler won't have a dispensary.

Novak said that three areas in Chandler meet the requirements of the ordinance for locating a dispensary. Those are parts of Crossroads Towne Center, Chandler Fashion Center and parts of Casa Paloma and the Chandler Pavilions. All of those landlords refuse to rent to a dispensary.

City planning staff had recommended the permit at Dobson and Frye be denied because the location of the dispensary didn't meet the requirements of the city ordinance. The Chandler Planning and Zoning Board had recommended, by a vote of 6-1, to allow the dispensary at Dobson and Frye.

by Luci Scott The Arizona Republic Apr. 29, 2011 10:04 AM



Chandler OKs medical-marijuana cultivation site

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