The Sedalia Planning and Zoning Commission voted against a medical marijuana special use permit with community members showing up to voice their opposition Wednesday evening.
The commission met in Council Chambers at the Municipal Building to discuss a special use permit submitted by GUESA USA for the properties of 101 and 111 S. Ohio Ave., formerly Central Bank of Sedalia.
Community Development Administrative Assistant Jilene Streit read memos from Community Development Director John Simmons, who was absent, about the proposed permit. The proposed medical marijuana location at 101 and 111 S. Ohio Ave. is located outside of boundaries set by city ordinance.
The proposed location is an M-1 Light Industrial property, which cannot be constructed, reconstructed, or altered except for certain uses. One of those uses is a medical marijuana dispensary entirely inside a closed building as long as it is located on property adjacent to or bordering U.S. Highways 50 and 65 or West Main Street. The proposed location falls “just outside” of the designated boundary and is located adjacent to East Main Street.
The property also falls within 796 feet of a church. The commission and Sedalia City Council previously decided all medical marijuana dispensaries must be at least 1,000 feet away from any elementary or secondary school, child daycare center, church, or other building regularly used as a place of religious worship after months of discussion and meetings.
Simmons also wrote in a memo that the application period for medical marijuana dispensaries had closed within the State of Missouri and the permit applicant did not have a pending application. The permit application was also submitted without a tenant identified. Simmons noted the city would have no way of knowing in the future who the tenant would be.
GUESA USA owner Jorge Guevara explained the building had two “humongous” safes which had made it an ideal location for a dispensary since dispensaries can only use cash. He also said they were contacted by three to four companies that are interested in using the building for a medical marijuana dispensary. Their plan is to get the location approved for it now, the tenant would work on the remodeling the building and then apply for licensing with the state when the state starts accepting applications again.
“I feel like the commission should just consider the reality if it is worth it to market that property to an outside company who could actually remodel the bank and bring it back to life by creating an exception of 200 feet to a place of worship,” Guevera said.
Guevara also said the only interest in the building previously had been from people who wanted to demolish it. When asked if he would be able to come back to the commission in a year or two when applications for medical marijuana dispensary licenses reopened, Guevara replied it would be too expensive to keep the building that long without a tenant, especially with the Pettis County property tax increases.
Chairman George Esser presented a letter from the Central Business and Cultural District Board from its Sept. 19 meeting which stated it opposed the permit. Commission member Ward 1 Councilman Jeff Leeman spoke of a phone call from a pastor involved in the area who was also opposed.
Downtown resident Pat Jennings voiced her opposition and presented a petition signed by seven other residents of the area in opposition to the dispensary. Michelle Swords of Swords Pharmacy and Courtney Wilken of Wilken Music, both located downtown, voiced their opposition as well.
“Our objection is just simply we are trying hard with downtown to make it a family-friendly area,” said Karen Esser who lives a “few doors down” from the proposed location. “The residential part of downtown has grown so much with all of the apartment buildings that have been going up.”
Commission members also cited concerns. Leeman spoke about the possibility of what happens if recreational marijuana became legal in Missouri. He also brought up the proposed city park at South Ohio Avenue and Second Street.
A major commission concern was not knowing who the tenant would be.
“I don’t know who you are putting in there. I think if you would have come to us and maybe down the stream come back, and we knew exactly who this person was or how their allocation was set forth, that might be something we could look at at that point,” Leeman said.
“I’m kind of struggling with why we’re doing this now,” Esser added. “It sounds like we’re just trying to redesign our map we just went through a painstaking process of creating for no apparent reason other than advantage or sales or something.”
All members voted to not recommend approval by the city council, which will vote on the permit at a future meeting.
The commission also began putting together a committee to create a new comprehensive plan for planning and zoning. The commission approved a selection committee and approved Simmons to start the request for proposal process. Commission members Esser and Kevin Wade were approved to be on the committee with Ann Richardson as an alternate. Other individuals will be selected to join at a later date.
Members John Kehde and Gregory Nehring were absent.
The commission’s next meeting will be at 5 p.m. Oct. 23 in council chambers.