A motion to send Dunsmuir’s medical marijuana cultivation ordinance to the planning commission for reconsideration passed with a 3-2 vote during the city council meeting Thursday. Commissioners will be asked to recommend whether or not the city law governing how medical marijuana patients can grow should be repealed and/or amended.
City Councilor Leslie Wilde, who placed this item on the agenda, voted for reconsideration, along with City Counselors Scott Welch and Tim Padula. Voting against were Councilor Ed Steele and Mayor Dave Keisler.
This was the second of two votes taken on the same agenda item.
The first vote, taken a few minutes earlier, approved sending the ordinance to the planning commission for a possible recommendation only to amend. In that vote, Steele joined Wilde, Welch and Padula in voting yes, passing 4-1 with Keisler opposed.
The second vote was called because Padula wanted to change the wording to include an option to repeal. A second motion was made and the second vote was 3-2.
Wilde’s original resolution called for the city council to consider repealing Dunsmuir’s medical marijuana cultivation ordinance. City Attorney John Kenny said repealing an ordinance requires a procedure, and could not be done by vote of council during that meeting. “So the decision tonight is not for the city council to repeal. It is whether the city council wants to consider repealing,” Kenny said. “You refer it to the planning commission.”
Steele said after the meeting that he changed his vote because he didn’t want the planning commission to send back a recommendation to repeal. “We can work with it,” he said of the ordinance.
Steele’s appearance at the meeting was an historic first, after councilors approved allowing remote participation during their previous meeting. His face was seen as a live image on a computer monitor that was set up behind his name plate in council chambers. He was visiting family in Boulder, Colorado, but answered the roll call, “Here” in Dunsmuir through the Internet.
Keisler said he voted no because he thought weakening or repealing an ordinance governing medical marijuana cultivation might lead to people leaving town, along with their kids.
Padula made the first motion, to amend the ordinance, saying he believes the way the law is written shows an intent to discriminate. “And I believe it should be repealed but, until then, amended to make everybody happy,” he said.
He read what he called a “concluding statement” of a letter written by a person who was involved in the creation of the current medical marijuana law. “I feel it is the duty of all non-users and the city government, along with the local law enforcement agency, to protect the health, safety and welfare of its citizens. If we are so afraid of a lawsuit that we allow it in our town, then at least make it as unprofitable and expensive as possible.”
Page 2 of 3 - Welch also said the letter showed bias that could have had an effect on the writing of the ordinance.
The planning commission is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the Dunsmuir medical marijuana ordinance at its next meeting, Wednesday, Jan. 8 at 7 p.m in council chambers.
Former Mayor Arlis Steele, no relation, said from the podium that the community had input on development of the Dunsmuir medical marijuana cultivation ordinance for about six months. He said the process was fair to both sides, those who wanted to grow and those who wanted to enjoy their backyards without the smell of the plants.
He criticized the vague wording describing the item on the agenda, “Resolution to repeal Ordinance 537 and remove Chapter 17.34,” which he said didn’t identify the ordinance targeted for repeal as being the Dunsmuir medical marijuana cultivation ordinance. He asked the mayor that such details be included in agendas from now on.
Former Mayor Peter Arth, who identified himself as a medical marijuana patient, said enforcement of the ordinance has been a waste of time and money. He said that over its lifetime, only two people had been cited for violating it, he being one.
Dick Kelby said this was an “incorrect” way to look at the situation, stating that the number of complaints was a better way of assessing the effectiveness of the ordinance than by number of citations.
Wilde shared a fax which she said was from the office of City Attorney John Kenny, advising the prior city council to remove from the cultivation ordinance the ban on medical marijuana growing in the Dunsmuir Downtown Historic District, “because it appears to be targeting just Mr. Arth.”
Answering a question from Welch, Wilde said her dispensary did not put her in conflict of interest with this agenda item. “The dispensary that I run has its own conditional use, that says there will be no cultivation there,” she said. “Regardless of whether cultivation is allowed in the city.”
The Dunsmuir City Council voted 5-0 to approve accepting a 50/50 CAL FIRE grant. Bains said the city’s share of cost, about $4,000, is not budgeted for the current fiscal year, so the purchases made for wildfire gear will come out of next year's budget.
Councilors also voted unanimously to cancel the next city council meeting, which was scheduled for Jan. 2.
The council tabled both old business items on last week’s agenda.
Citing a need for clarity on ownership and boundaries in considering vacating Spruce Street, staff asked for more time.
Councilors also postponed discussion and possible action on establishing policies and procedures for the Dunsmuir Planning Commission Historical District delegates.
Under new business, they tabled appointment of two new planning commissioners.
Page 3 of 3 - Wilde introduced a concern that Dunsmuir Recreation and Parks was planning to close the City Park ball field to dogs. District superintendent Mike Rodriguez said too many citizens don’t pick up their pet’s droppings, which present an unpleasant and unhealthy situation for athletes playing on the field. He said the Rec and Parks board had not decided anything yet, and that it is on the agenda for the meeting to be held Jan. 9 at 6 p.m. at the Rec and Parks office.
The next meeting of the Dunsmuir City Council is scheduled to convene Jan. 16, 2014 at 6 p.m. in council chambers.