Acting as if they wanted to come down on the correct side of caution, the Newport City Council Monday put a temporary moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries until they can come up with reasonable rules of dispensary operations. Recent state legislation allows cities and counties to create a temporary ban on the dispensaries while local governments develop what’s called “reasonable regulations” on their operations – where to locate, what hours of operation, who’s allowed inside, etc. City manager Spencer Nebel said state law gives local jurisdictions until May 1st to formalize their moratorium which will then remain in effect no later than May 1st of next year. After that, applications are wide open.
Two applications have been filed for locating in Newport – one near 15th and 101, the other just north of there. State law already bans dispensaries from locating within a thousand feet of a school, another marijuana dispensary or an area where children would normally be expected to congregate, like a park or popular playground. Local regulations could go into more detail like who’s allowed to be inside the dispensary or whether on-site consumption would be allowed. City Councilor Dean Sawyer commented that in light of the state offering only four (count’em FOUR) dispensary inspectors for the whole state, he’d like the council to consider how best to address dispensary compliance issues here locally. Colorado enacted new taxes on marijuana to fund such inspections and regulatory enforcement.
Nebel said with so much uncertainty about how the medical marijuana issue may unfold in Oregon, and with recreational marijuana looming on the November ballot, he would like the council to have time to reflect on where things are going and hopefully come up with a set of regulations that make sense.
The vote among the councilors was unanimous to enact the moratorium. Again, state law says the moratorium must be formally adopted by May 1st of this year and could remain in effect until May 1st of next year. If a city or county developed their regulatory framework and enforcement in place relatively quickly, the council could legally lift their ban well before May of next year.
In other action, the council gave Nebel, Community Development Director Derrick Tokos and City Attorney Rob Connell the green light to begin outlining how the city will work with Lincoln County Commissioners on having them turn over jurisdiction of lands surrounding Newport’s drinking water reservoirs and Big Creek Road that runs the length of them. The city wants to expand the city limits to encompass the area – not to create development, but to prevent it, so it doesn’t pollute the water behind both dams.
And the council gave the go-ahead to for the city to get moving with ODOT to create 9 improved crosswalk crossings of Highway 101 from Bayley all the way north to 15th. The project has been hanging fire for quite a while as the city has been locked in a polite tug of war with ODOT over how much the project will cost and how much money each entity will pay. After some back and forth over what the final costs should be, the city seems agreeable on an amount it’s willing to chip in. City Public Works Director Tim Gross said the project should go out to bid with construction taking a couple of months starting next February. Some crosswalks will be rather elaborate with pedestrian island safety sanctuaries complete with warning lights to motorists that there are people in the crosswalk. Others will be straight crosswalks. Gross said once the project is complete he’ll immediately start looking for state or federal grants to signalize more of them – maybe adding a few additional islands to make pedestrian crossings of 101 even safer.
And the council gave Lincoln County Commissioner Bill Hall a “definite maybe” on his request that Newport write a thirty thousand dollar check every year to the Lincoln County Land Trust that seeks to provide affordable family wage housing that is in short supply here on the coast. As a member of the land trust board, Hall said housing along the coast is just so expensive that many government workers, firefighters and police officers especially, are forced to go inland for housing which lengthens their response times during emergencies. School teachers, nurses and other medical workers, even small business owners, have a tough time affording suitable housing.
The trust is a non-profit that secures buildable homesites through donations or below market acquisitions. The trust either builds new or renovates older homes that are worth investing in. The trust has moved three families into houss in Lincoln City and wants to build more, mainly in Lincoln City and Newport because that’s where the demand is greatest. He said they’re also asking Lincoln City to chip in thirty thousand a year to pay for project management, donations and investment recruitment.
Community Development Director Derrick Tokos, who also sits on the land trust board, said the city of Newport owns six properties that might qualify for single family homes. There are also opportunities for pooling resources among the county and two cities involving foreclosure properties, those being auctioned off for back taxes and certain revolving loan funds.
But City Councilor Ralph Busby again offered his well known opinion on the issue saying “How can we justify to the citizens of Newport that we are going to provide subsidized housing for a family to the tune of $50,000 or more? And it’s just one family?” Busby said several months ago when confronted with a similar pitch, “It would be cheaper if we just wrote them a check, but that wouldn’t go over very well either.”
Hall responded that housing is a very critical issue in Lincoln County which means even infrequent opportunities make a big difference. Hall was asked whether the land trust might consider building duplexes or high clustered housing. Hall replied that they have talked about that in the past but that the emphasis has always been on separate, stand alone single family housing. But he admitted that it might be time to take a closer look at it.
Councilors asked Hall to request County Counsel Wayne Belmont draw up a proposed Intergovernmental Agreement that would outline how the two cities and the county might team up to provide more affordable family wage housing here on the central coast. The council said it would at least give them something to look at and think about.