Medford City Council Study Session
March 12, 2015
The meeting was called to order at noon in the Medford Room, City Hall, 411 W. 8th Street, Medford with the following members present.
Mayor Gary Wheeler; Councilmembers Daniel Bunn, Eli Matthews, Kevin Stine, Chris Corcoran, Tim Jackle, Clay Bearnson and Michael Zarosinski.
Councilmember Dick Gordon was absent.
1. Coquille Tribe Casino/BIA Response:
Jenna McLane, Washington D.C. legal counsel joined the meeting via telephone.
Eric Swanson spoke to the letters distributed to the Council. The first letter is the City's response affirming our desire to be a cooperating agency in the process. The second letter is a draft from the legal counsel regarding the response to the BIA scoping request for input.
Ms. McLane spoke to the scoping letter. She explained the purpose of the scoping letter and that this is a method to allow the local jurisdiction to provide input on items that are being requested to be included in the scoping.
The letter contains three areas of concern: 1) the regulations that apply under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act to the Tribe’s proposed casino project; 2) questions arising under the Indian Reorganization Act; and 3) comments specific to the preparation of the EIS.
Lori Cooper, City Attorney addressed the Council and spoke to the cooperating agency letter. This gives the City a more direct role in the EIS preparation and review of drafts.
Mr. Swanson noted the letters will be submitted before the deadline next week.
Ms. McLane left the meeting.
2. Marijuana - Time, Place & Manner: Mr. Swanson spoke to the legislative call this morning with Senator Bates and Representative Esquivel. He noted that there is a super committee reviewing the issue and that they are still in the information gathering input stage. The legislative representatives noted that they believe the rulemaking process will take multiple sessions to get this issue refined.
Deputy City Attorney Kevin McConnell addressed the Council and noted that the ordinance presented is a draft as a place to begin discussion. He noted that the reason that this has come forward is to address complaints regarding the odors emanating from medical marijuana grows. This issue is anticipated to become exacerbated with the legalization of recreational marijuana.
The ordinance prohibits odor, containment in City permitted enclosures, activity be screened from public view, and enforce with fines/abatement. He noted this is similar to other public nuisance ordinances, such as garbage accumulation, already identified in the Medford Code.
Mr. McConnell spoke to statements by the ACLU that the City is using this ordinance to get around Measure 91 but he does not agree with that statement and that the City has the right to impose this ordinance. Councilmember Corcoran asked questions regarding the definitions and standards in the ordinance and Mr. McConnell noted that this ordinance is designed to be general in nature and that it is a starting place for discussions.
Councilmembers questioned how this would be handled if a complaint was filed by a neighbor who just doesn’t like the grow site. Mr. McConnell noted this is a similar type of situation that Code Enforcement officials already deal with in other areas such as junk accumulation. The CE Officers will investigate the complaints and make a determination based on the evidence at the investigation.
Councilmembers discussed the difficulty in determining “smell” as an offense. Mr. McConnell noted that there are various strains and some are less offensive. Another option would be to move the growing of the plants indoors to eliminate the smell.
Councilmember Bearnson questioned the fencing requirements and how officers would detect which plants were offensive if there were several in the immediate area. He questioned the Measure 91 language regarding place, time and manner. Mr. McConnell noted that for enforcement, Code Enforcement Officers would investigate a complaint and work within the intent of public safety and compliance. Regarding the Measure 91 language that was in reference to businesses not home grows.
Councilmember Jackle spoke to the complaint driven enforcement and that this allows various neighborhoods to accept different standards. He noted he was not sure that this is appropriate for a residential subdivision, maybe this is an agricultural issue.
Councilmembers questioned the fencing requirements and Building Safety Director Sam Barnum stated that the 7-8 foot fence aligns with the Building Code requirements.
Councilmember Zarosinski noted he did not have any issue with this moving forward but expressed concern that this may raise problems with land use regulations. He questioned the use of green houses. Mr. McConnell noted that greenhouses would be added to the code.
Councilmember Bearnson noted that he felt the ordinance looked good except for the odor issues. He also raised concerns with indoor grows in older homes and the potential for fires. Mr. McConnell noted that in drafting the ordinance he did not include indoor rules for grows but felt that the Building Codes provides rules for safe buildings.
Councilmembers discussed the pros and cons of this issue given the Measure 91 language and lack of OLCC rules being established at this time. Staff will continue to work on the ordinance and bring back at a future date.
The Council then spoke to the moratorium on dispensaries currently in effect in Medford and that consideration to lifting the moratorium would offset the restriction of growing in residential areas. Mr. Swanson noted that during the legislative call with Senator Bates and Representative Esquivel, they advised holding on doing anything for a few weeks to see where the super committee works through some of the issues and there is a clearer understanding of where this issue will likely go in rulemaking.
Councilmembers requested that a future study session be scheduled to further discuss these issues once more information is available from the OLCC.
Meeting adjourned at 1:33 p.m.