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City to propose zoning ordinance for cannabis businesses

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As the city of Roswell takes its first steps toward regulating cannabis use and production, Mayor Dennis Kintigh said he expects lawsuits will come.

“My prediction, and I don’t have the gift of prophecy, but no matter what we do, there will be litigation. I think we’re destined to have that,” he said Monday.

Three city councilors, Jason Perry, Judy Stubbs and Jeanine Best — the chairs of the city council’s Finance, Legal and Public Safety committees, respectively — have worked with the city’s legal staff and Community Development Director Kevin Maevers on a proposed chapter of city code on cannabis.

If approved, the code would designate commercial and industrial areas for cannabis sales, consumption and production and prohibit cannabis businesses and events in the downtown area.

A public hearing must be conducted on the ordinance containing the new code before it can be adopted. The full city council will consider advertising for and scheduling a public hearing in a special meeting at 5 p.m. Thursday in meeting room A of the Roswell Convention Center, 912 N. Main.

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If approved, the public hearing and a possible vote would be conducted at the council’s Aug. 12 meeting.

To join the meeting on a computer, tablet or smartphone go to https://global.gotomeeting.com/join/815060573, or by phone by calling 669-224-3412 and using access code 815-060-573.

Prior to the special Roswell City Council meeting, the council’s Legal Committee will consider its recommendation on the ordinance at its regular meeting at 3 p.m. Thursday in the convention center.

The entire chapter of code can be found in the agenda packet for the Legal Committee and the special city council meetings on the city website.

Kintigh said anyone with concerns about the code should take time before the August council meeting to read it and voice their concerns by contacting him or city councilors.

“The sooner those concerns, comments, suggestions are made the better. I’m not real comfortable with trying to amend stuff on the fly, so to speak, in council meetings. I’d rather have comments sooner so they can be looked at, evaluated and, if appropriate, incorporated,” Kintigh said.

The mayor said it’s important to get the code adopted soon. The state is to begin taking and processing license applications for cannabis producers by Sept. 1. By the beginning of 2022, the state will begin to issue licenses. The retail sale of commercial cannabis can begin by April 1.

“Supposedly (the state) is saying we cannot retroactively enact restrictions. In other words, once an entity has a permit from the state, we can’t come in and do anything that would adversely impact a licensed marijuana dealership. This is one of the reasons to move forward at this point,” Kintigh said.

Regarding personal possession and non-commercial cultivation, the proposed code mostly follows state law, allowing adults 21 and older to possess up to 2 ounces of cannabis, 16 grams of concentrated cannabis-infused products and 800 milligrams of edible cannabis.

An individual can have up to six mature and six immature plants with a maximum of 12 per household. The proposed code stipulates all non-commercial cultivation must be in an enclosed structure. A residential greenhouse for cannabis would require a permit from the city’s planning and zoning office.

Violations of those provisions would be punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a fine up to $500.

The bulk of the code addresses zoning and development requirements for commercial sales, consumption and production, specifying which areas of the city such businesses will be allowed.

Article 7 of the proposed code designates the city’s Community Commercial Zone, or C-2 zone, as a Commercial Cannabis Zone where retail sales and consumption facilities could be located.

“The C-2 zone is the most geographically prominent commercial zone in the City of Roswell and is located throughout the city along collector and arterial street facilities,” the code reads.

That includes much of North and South Main Street, Southeast Main Street, areas of Second Street and other areas throughout the city.

However, the proposed code also outlines three districts where cannabis businesses will be prohibited — the Downtown Historic District, the C-3 Downtown Business District and the Railroad District Metropolitan Redevelopment Area.

The Downtown Historic District is bounded by Eighth Street on the north, Deming Street on the south, Washington Avenue on the west and Richardson Avenue on the east.

Those three areas are proposed to be prohibited from cannabis businesses to honor the historic character and to protect the economic welfare of the city, the proposed code says.

The code would also prohibit cannabis businesses within 300 feet of schools, parks and churches; childcare, military, senior care, retirement and medial facilities; mental health and addiction centers; and residential districts. The proposed code also stipulates there be one quarter-mile between cannabis-related businesses.

The city’s Heavy Industrial (I-2) Zone, which is primarily the Roswell Air Center, would be designated the Industrial Cannabis Zone, where commercial cultivation, manufacturing, processing, distribution, special events and retail sales and consumption areas could be established.

The proposed code also outlines conditional use permits and other business regulations.

The agenda for the city council’s special meeting also includes consideration of Kintigh’s nomination for the Ward 4 seat being vacated by Councilor George Peterson, who announced his resignation last week to accept a job with the city.

The council will also consider ratifying a decision by City Manager Joe Neeb to suspend a city policy requiring the city council give approval to purchase orders exceeding $250,000 in order to purchase 10 vehicles for the Roswell Police Department.

City/RISD reporter Juno Ogle can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or reporter04@rdrnews.com.