Even without moratorium, Lebanon shop might have had legal trouble
Even if the Linn County Board of Commissioners had not acted last week to impose a one-year moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries, Going Green Compassion in Lebanon is operating in an area not zoned for commercial applications, chairman Roger Nyquist said Tuesday morning.
The owners of Going Green Compassion, Shawn Aman and Sarah Whiteley, had hoped that the county would exempt their business from the moratorium on grounds that the business already has been open for a year. But Nyquist said that won’t happen.
The business has operated without any county permits.
“We acted on the advice of legal counsel,” Nyquist said of the board’s decision.
The commissioners could have made the moratorium effectively immediately last Wednesday, but decided to allow Going Green Compassion, 2999 S. Santiam Highway, until April 30 to close, providing clients time to find other places to buy medical marijuana.
The commissioners were surprised a couple of weeks ago when Aman and Whiteley testified in favor of medical marijuana dispensaries during a public hearing. The commissioners did not know the facility had been operating within the county since April 2013.
After last week’s meeting, the commissioners asked the county Planning and Building Department to determine whether the business was properly zoned.
According to department director Robert Wheeldon, “A proposed medical marijuana dispensary is not an allowed or permitted use on the subject property per the UGA-UGM Code (urban growth area/urban growth management).”
Wheeldon said the property, which is not inside the Lebanon city limits, has “undergone a series of non-conforming use reviews to recognize pre-existing commercial use of the property.”
He said the most recent was in 2006, when the property owner asked that it be used for office space and storage for a construction company. At one time, the property was used as a car lot.
“However, department records indicate the property owner did not satisfy the permit requirements and therefore the use was not properly initiated on the property. Permit approval would have expired on May 24, 2008.”
Wheeldon noted, however, that the property is within the Lebanon Urban Growth Boundary and is near the Lebanon city limits boundary.
“As such, the property is eligible to be annexed into the city of Lebanon,” Wheeldon noted. “The Lebanon Comprehensive Plan identifies the property as commercial. If annexed, it would be zoned consistent with the city’s plan designation.”
But even if the property were annexed into the city, Aman and Whiteley would have to wait until May 2015 to resume their business because the Lebanon City Council already has approved a dispensary moratorium.
The Albany City Council is expected to finalize a decision on medical marijuana dispensaries at 7:15 p.m. today at City Hall, 333 Broadalbin St. S.W.
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