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Council discusses conditional use permit for marijuana growing, processing facilities

Mustang city council members during the Jan. 19 work session discussed moving forward with possible options regarding commercial marijuana grower and processor permits.
As a note, no decisions are made at work sessions.
The council had tabled the previous agenda item of a resident’s request to change the city’s codes of marijuana permits at the Dec. 1, 2020, council meeting.
The item was set to be on the Feb. 2 meeting agenda, as the council decided to take more time to review the requests with the city attorney. Nathan Harris, resident and owner of Mustang Machine Works Inc., requested the city change the proximity requirements of both permits.
Currently, article five states that divisions three and four state permits will not be granted to applicants, who wish to be located within 1,000 feet of:
• private and public schools;
• libraries or museums;
• playgrounds;
• child care centers;
• churches;
• parks, pools, recreation facilities;
• juvenile or adult halfway houses, correctional facilities, substance abuse rehabilitation centers; or
• residentially zoned districts.
In his Nov. 6, 2020, letter to the council, Harris said these location requirements are overly restrictive compared to other nearby communities, such as Oklahoma City, Nor-man and Moore, as well as the state’s requirements.
Their requirements focus more on official medical marijuana licensing and effective security.
He asked the council to allow both divisions to be more in line with the city’s division two, which does not have the child care, church or residential area requirements. Harris also requests the city change the fencing requirement of 10 feet tall to at least 8 feet.
City Manager Tim Rooney said Mustang is the most restrictive when it comes to these permits, with the exception of Yukon, who prohibits marijuana growing and processing plants.
As Harris’ business does not meet the location and distance requirements, Rooney recommended the council make regulation changes on a case-by-case basis through a conditional use permit.
Midwest City and Shawnee have conditional use permits in regard to marijuana plants, Rooney said.
With this, the council would be able to choose who to grant changes to if an applicant’s location does not meet the city’s requirements.
Council members could have two different ordinances to review regarding the permits. One could be having a conditional use with no requirements, while the other could have distance requirements with the potential of having a conditional use permit.
Each applicant would apply, and a hearing would go before the council. Applicants must pay $2,500 for the permits.
Precedence is not set with conditional uses.
Public input would also be considered, as neighboring property owners located 300 feet away would also be notified about the plant location.
“If 100% of the area property owners show up and say, ‘we hate this, we don’t want it here,’ I doubt you all are going to do it,” Rooney said. “However, if no property owners show up, why wouldn’t you?”
A conditional use permit would also allow the council to review the request in two years to approve, discontinue, or add new specific requirements.
Also, if someone wants to have a plant and they meet the 1,000-foot requirement, they would not have to go through the conditional use permit process, Rooney said.
City attorney John Miller said he must review some legalities of the permits, such as looking at possible changes made by courts, and ordinances already in place.
“I don’t want to rush something through and have it be improper,” Miller said.
While Harris was not present at the work session, due to COVID-19, his father was to answer questions of the council. The Harris family wants to have a grow container inside one of their buildings to be able to “make a living.”
With the business, the Harris’s want to sell medical marijuana to research facilities. Eventually, they may want to become a processor.
They are hoping to have at least 10 employees within the first couple of years if the plant is approved by the council. Ward 6 Nathan Sholund said he liked the idea of job growth.
Plants are not open to the public, and the family said they will ensure their facility is secure.
The family’s building, which is located on State Highway 152, is across the street from a church. While some council members, like Ward 5 Travis McKenzie, voiced concerns about a marijuana plant being too close to a church, the Harris’s are more concerned with the city’s requirement of being 1,000 feet away from a residentially zoned area, as that makes it nearly impossible.
Rooney agreed with the residential difficulty.
“You still want to have some protection from neighborhoods on some uses, but on a use where everything is done inside, customers don’t go there, nobody sees what’s going on in there — is the space requirement as much of an issue as it is with retail people coming and going …,” Rooney said.
He also said plants do not have to have a sign on the building.
Rooney also recommended staff change fence requirements. He said the requirement should be specific to each zoning district.
The city doesn’t have a 10-foot fencing requirement anywhere else, he said.
Mayor-elect Brian Grider said the difference between dispensaries and grow houses is murky because marijuana is still considered illegal at the federal level. How cities address medical dispensaries and grow houses is constantly evolving, he said.
Councilman Terry Jones and Mayor Jess Schweinberg were not present at the session.

More council updates

In other work session news, while city staff was planning on providing tablets that had council agendas loaded on them for members to overlook, Rooney said they have decided against it. There was going to be a training session at the February work session; however, city staff will now plan individual agenda discussions with the council members prior to meetings.
In employee news, Kelly Walbaum is the newest utility billing employee for the city. She started three weeks ago.

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