Aurora City Council to Consider Allowing Recreational, Medical Marijuana Sales in Historic District

The Aurora City Council will hold a public hearing tonight to discuss the possibility of allowing recreational and medical marijuana dispensaries and retail stores in the city’s historic district.

The Planning Commission had previously, on Feb. 4, voted 3-2 to approve the proposed amendment to the municipal code, and forward it to the council for their consideration.

The city of Aurora’s downtown district and much of its surrounding core is zoned under a “historic commercial overlay,” which permits a wide and diverse variety of uses, from bicycle repair and day care facilities to pet grooming, art studios and fuel sales.

Medical marijuana dispensaries and recreational marijuana retail stores would be added to the code as a conditional use (meaning they would still require authorization by the city Planning Commission), if the council approves the change at their Feb. 11 meeting.

A number of conditions for such facilities would also be added to the code, including that they could not be within 1,000 feet of a school, day care or another dispensary, and could not be adjacent to a residential zone, public park or place of worship.

The use would not be allowed as a home business, and any applicants and employees must pass a criminal background check. Hours of operation would be limited to between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m., and drive-through windows would be prohibited.

According to KOIN’s Hannah Ray Lambert, the city receives about $6,000 a year in state marijuana revenue, since pot shops are technically allowed in city limits (though there are currently none). Canby, on the other hand, opted out of allowing dispensaries, and therefore receives no portion of revenue from their sales.

According to city records, the review stems from a request by Dalton and Samantha Justice, prospective business owners from Oregon City, who are interested in leasing the small building next to the Aurora Colony Pub and using it as a recreational marijuana dispensary. The building is zoned for commercial retail.

In minutes from previous meetings, members of the Planning Commission and Historic Review Board raised several concerns, such as how it might impact Aurora’s image to prospective visitors (in the words of one citizen, “what the city is identified as”), and the odor and traffic that can accompany such businesses.

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 “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 the Feb. 4 meeting. “We’re everyday people, and would do everything to uphold that standard.”

Aurora resident Micah Moore said that, in his experience, dispensaries are discreet.

“If you drive by, you don’t see them,” he said. “There aren’t people smoking on the sidewalk. This won’t be thrusting marijuana on everyone in town. … It will be just another business in town that provides for its customers.”

Moore also pointed out that gas stations, like the modern Shell on the corner of Highway 99E and Main Street, aren’t historic either, but they are allowed in the district.

The planned Green Planet dispensary, located between Canby and Aurora at the former Top O’ Hill Restaurant, came up during the discussion, but Samantha Justice said she looked into it and “doesn’t think they’ll be able to do recreational (sales).” One planning commissioner said they are advertising CBD oil — a product derived from hemp that contains no THC, the psychoactive chemical in marijuana.

After the public hearing, Commissioner Bud Fawcett expressed his support, saying there are four businesses in the historic district that sell alcohol, and he doesn’t think a dispensary is “far-fetched.” Commission Chairman Joseph Schaefer disagreed, saying the historic district has a brand, and “this doesn’t fit it.”

The commission approved the amendment 3-2, with Fawcett, Craig McNamara and Jim Stewart in favor, and Schaefer and Jonathan Gibson opposed.

The City Council will meet at 7 p.m. in the council chambers of Aurora City Hall, 21420 (heh) Main Street N.E.

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