Aurora City Council Hashes Out Code Changes, Will Allow Dispensaries in Historic District

After hashing out their differences in some lengthy discussion last night, the Aurora City Council voted unanimously to allow a budding new business, medical and recreational marijuana dispensaries, to set up shop in their historic commercial district.

Dispensaries have been technically permitted in Aurora ever since use of the drug became legal in Oregon, but they were not allowed in the historic district, which covers much of the town and, especially, most of the small commercial locations that would make sense for retail sales of marijuana.

There are currently no dispensaries located in the city limits of Aurora. But, after Tuesday’s decision, it would appear that is about to change. Dispensaries would now be allowed in the historic district, under certain conditions.

They may not be located within 1,000 feet of a school, day care or another dispensary, and also may not be adjacent to a residential zone, public park or place of worship.

In Aurora’s historic district, there is a unique zoning classification that allows for commercial use but, if the property is vacant for a year or more, it reverts back to single-family residential zoning. Under a new condition imposed by the city council, dispensaries would also be prohibited from locating next to these properties.

Marijuana sales would also not be allowed as a home business in the historic district, and any applicants and employees must pass a criminal background check. Hours of operation would be limited to between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m., and drive-through windows would be prohibited.

Prospective business owners may be quick to take advantage of the new law. Dalton and Samantha Justice, who currently work in the industry and live in Oregon City, had previously expressed interest in leasing commercial space next to the Aurora Colony Pub for a dispensary, and have been active participants in the public hearing process.

After Tuesday night, Samantha Justice confirmed the couple will move forward with their plans, including applying for a license to sell recreational cannabis through the OLCC.

According to KOIN’s Hannah Ray Lambert, the city of Aurora already receives about $6,000 a year in state marijuana revenue. Canby, on the other hand, opted out of allowing dispensaries, and therefore receives no portion of revenue from their sales.

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At the beginning of the meeting, Mayor Asher brought out a loaf of bread and made some metaphor about how about 50% of people don’t like the heels but we all still eat the bread. Folks were REALLY into the metaphor. And then he reminded everyone to be kind.

Prior to Tuesday’s decision, local residents as well as members of the Planning Commission and Historic Review Board had expressed various concerns, such as odor, traffic and the impact it might make on Aurora’s image to prospective visitors.

The historic district has a lack of adequate lighting, parking and police presence, with one citizen pointing out that cash-based businesses such as marijuana sales can “attract certain elements,” while another cautioned against labeling potential patrons as “riff raff.”

“We don’t want to disturb what’s been created with the historic district,” Dalton Justice said at an earlier meeting. “We’re everyday people, and would do everything to uphold that standard.”

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