By Conrad Dudderar
A property owner who was recently denied his request to utilize a Main Street site for a new marijuana dispensary says he likely will sell or lease the property.
The Yukon Board of Adjustments at its Nov. 4 meeting unanimously denied a request from applicant Justin Greenfield for a city variance request to allow a new medical marijuana business on property he owns at 10 N Kimbell.
“My larger goal was that we could be a neighbor and a partner in the community,” Greenfield said.
Board members decided the request conflicted with a city ordinance that regulates where retail marijuana establishments are located.
City staff determined the Kimbell Road site was within 300 feet of the nearest parcel entrance to another dispensary (The Green Lily, 355 E Main) and a church, in violation of the city code.
Greenfield, represented at the Board of Adjustments hearing by attorney Mason Schwartz, could appeal the denial by filing a lawsuit in Canadian County District Court.
But that appears unlikely.
“I don’t want to file more cases if it’s not going to be effective,” Greenfield said this week. It felt like the Board of Adjustments pretty well decided their direction on that case. I’m a lawyer … I’ve never been involved in a lawsuit. I don’t believe in fighting like that. It’s inefficient and a waste of time. But I really don’t know of a positive way to get the desired result. So I’ll probably try to sell the building or lease it again.”
Greenfield this spring spent $279,000 to purchase the 10 N Kimbell property – a former gas station/convenience store – believing a marijuana dispensary would be permitted there.
When Greenfield bought the property, the 2,200-square-foot building’s exterior had already been rehabbed with new paint and a new roof. The new owner estimates he then spent $20,000-$30,000 to renovate the interior, improve the electrical and resurface the asphalt parking lot.
“It’s frustrating, but like a lot of things, you have to regroup and figure out a better way to go forward,” he said.
Greenfield was prepared to lease the property to a company that would have operated the medical marijuana business.
“There were going to have 12 employees with six people on staff at all times,” he said.
“They were moving all these people from Washington state. The disappointing part was that the economic impact alone was going to be massive.”
Greenfield cited “confusion” among Yukon city leaders about how to interpret rules over the location of retail marijuana establishments.
The applicant and his attorney believe the 300-foot restriction should be determined by the front building entrance, not parcel entrance.
IT’S IN THE ORDINANCE
Yukon city ordinance lists eight location restrictions to where a retail marijuana establishment permit may be granted in Yukon city limits:
• Within 300 feet of another medical marijuana or retail establishment, library or museum, public playground, childcare center, place of worship or religious assembly, public park, pool or recreation facility, juvenile or adult halfway house, correctional facility, and substance abuse rehabilitation/treatment center.
• Within 1,000 feet of any private or public school, vocational or trade school, college, or university.
City Attorney Gary Miller drafted the ordinance, which was approved by the Yukon City Council. The City of Yukon was sued in district court, and Judge Paul Hesse subsequently ruled the location requirements in the ordinance were valid.
Miller said it would have been better if Greenfield had met with City of Yukon Development Services’ officials before spending significant money to renovate the Kimbell Road site.
“They could have told him, ‘There’s a problem here’,” Miller said.
Yukon’s city attorney said Greenfield told him he had bought and remodeled the building and had an out-of-state company to operate the business.
“He was a real professional and they were going to bring in this great organization and this was going to be more of a ‘health spa’-type atmosphere than anything else,” Miller said, paraphrasing Greenfield. “And it would be a real jewel in the crown of Yukon.”
Miller said he discussed with Greenfield the 300-foot location restrictions from churches and other medical marijuana facilities.
“I said, ‘Just make sure you’re good there’, and he said, ‘Oh I measured it, and we’re fine’,” the city attorney related. “I said, ‘If that’s true, you shouldn’t have any problem’. Of course, it wasn’t true.”
After city staff members reviewed the ordinance and measured the distance, they determined the proposed retail marijuana business would be too close to churches and another dispensary (The Green Lily).
Greenfield finds Yukon’s retail marijuana ordinance to be overly restrictive and believes this negatively affects the local economy.
“I understand the reasons for creating zoning laws, and they’re needed for protection,” he said. “But the way they’ve got that interpreted, there isn’t that many areas that you can occupy real estate in Yukon. When it’s 300 feet away from every church, every type of school, every day care and the other things they included, it’s pretty restricted.
“I don’t have the money or expertise to be the first one through the gate to fight it.”
Greenfield is disappointed but plans to move on and sell or lease the renovated Main Street property.
“If there is weed demand in Yukon, it’s just going to be sold at fewer dispensaries and create less economic impact,” he said. “How many Yukon residents could make and support families from these businesses?”