Council hears first reading on rules for cannabis establishments

AP file photo

BROOKINGS – The Brookings City Council heard a first reading Tuesday on the zoning regulations for cannabis facilities, changing the distance of the proposed buffer zone. First readings are for discussion only; the council makes no decision and takes no vote. 

Mike Struck, director of Community Development, explained Ordinance 21-025. The public hearing is set for July 27.

Struck said during the process, the city has talked to officials in other peer communities that have had cannabis for a while as well as communities in South Dakota to see how they are handling it. 

“We took the approach that we weren’t gonna differentiate between medical cannabis and recreational cannabis. We’re just establishing it as cannabis establishments,” he said.

Staff defined the different uses by the primary four major components: dispensaries, manufacturing, cultivation, and testing facilities, Struck said.

Staff tried to mirror what the state had established, but there are some differences; specifically, most of the state’s references are for medical cannabis, which city staff removed, he said.

Other communities recommended that zoning for manufacturing, cultivation and testing facilities should be more restricted and “look at more of your heavier-use type districts, generally being the industrial districts, typically because of the size of the facilities,” Struck said.

Dispensaries are more like a retail operation, and Struck compared them to existing pharmacies and what districts they can be located in, so staff is proposing the dispensaries be in B-1, B-2, B-2A, B-3, and B-4 districts. 

Struck showed a graphic on the screen to illustrate how a 300-foot buffer around churches, schools, pre-schools and a detention facility would look. He also showed the B-1 District, which includes the downtown, the B-2, B-2A, B-3 and B-4, all in different colors. 

Outside of the colored areas is where a cannabis facility could be located, he said.

“There is an exception, that we’re proposing, is that it cannot be located within a 1,000 feet of another cannabis establishment,” Struck said, using the intersection of Sixth Street and Medary as an example, the 1,000 buffer zone would extend more than two blocks.

“The one exception also pertains to the downtown district – what we are recommending is that instead of 1,000 feet from another cannabis establishment, it would be 300 feet,” Struck said, adding that 300 feet is typically associated with a downtown city block. “We have been working with the city attorney’s office and the assistant city attorney on this.”

Councilor comments

There was no public comment, but the councilors raised some questions.

Councilor Patty Bacon asked how the 300 feet would be taken into consideration for across the street.

“We’re simply going from the property lines,” Struck said, adding they would go 300 feet in all directions from the property line.

Councilor Leah Brink said the visual aid helped her a lot. If the downtown area has a 300-foot buffer and outside of downtown would be 1,000 feet, and a dispensary was located close to the downtown area, which buffer zone would apply, she asked. 

“Very good question,” Struck said, asking City Attorney Steve Britzman to weigh in if necessary. “My interpretation would be is when you have two different districts, the 1,000 foot would come into play.”

Brink asked Struck to put the visual aid back on the screen. Using the northwest corner of the downtown district as a hypothetical location for a facility, “a thousand feet would pretty much eliminate the rest of downtown,” Brink said.

“Theoretically, it could,” Struck answered, then demonstrated it on the screen.

“I’ll just offer that that makes me a little uncomfortable right now from how that’s situated,” Brink said, adding she understands both buffer zones, “but I think maybe we’d want to think about that a little bit with regards to that downtown; otherwise, I just don’t want us to be put in a position where there’s an arms race to get a certain location so that it can X out a whole bunch of other people from competing.”

Councilor Holly Tilton Byrne also appreciated the visual and wanted to know if they could get them included in a future council packet so they had time to study it. Struck said that can be done and they can send out the link again.

Tilton Byrne asked if there was a reason why the council could not do a blanket 300-foot buffer zone, “so we aren’t running into some of those situations?”

Struck said the presentation was ideas for the council to consider.

“We’re open to what you feel is appropriate,” Struck said.

Brink supported the blanket 300-foot buffer zone.

“I personally would like that. I think that would eliminate the confusion between the districts and the measurements,” she said.

Councilor Joey Collins asked when the council would decide how many dispensaries the city will allow, because that could answer some of these questions.

“I think we have a plan for a first reading on July 27,” Britzman said, adding the current draft of the ordinance does have a number, but the council members could change that, if they wish.

Tilton Byrne wanted clarification that the ordinance they were discussing pertained to where they’d allow facilities, but the next ordinance would pertain to the permitting process and the number of permits allowed.

“That is correct,” Britzman said.

The two ordinances are “somewhat tied together, yet separate items in that this is just getting the zoning piece in place and we wanted to have something established so that when the licensing piece came forward, but also in case the state was to move forward with their rules and regulations sooner than that Oct. 29 time period,” Struck said.

“So we wanted to have something in place so that we could at least, from a zoning perspective, identify where we felt it was appropriate for the siting of these types of establishments. And then we can certainly amend it at any time in the future, if we feel that something isn’t working appropriately or we want to expand, or whatever the prerogative of the council or the community is at that time,” Struck said.

Tilton Byrne asked when they could change the ordinance to a blanket 300-feet.

“You could make a motion tonight to direct staff to modify the zoning,” Britzman said.

Tilton Byrne made the motion to change the ordinance to a blanket 300-feet “to maybe simplify the language a little bit.” 

“In terms of limiting it, we can maybe handle that in the permitting process, in terms of the number that we do,” she said.

Brink asked if Tilton Byrne intended to keep a 300-foot buffer from religious and educational facilities.

“Correct,” Tilton Byrne said.

Contact Jodelle Greiner at [email protected]

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