ONTARIO — Despite their best attempts to disperse a line that started forming a week ago today in front of the Community Development Center, Ontario city officials were unable to reach a resolution on Friday with those waiting in line for the potential to submit an application to operate a recreational marijuana facility within the city.
Even if voters pass Measure 23-61 today and overturn the city’s ban on such facilities — simultaneously enacting a 3 percent sales tax on retail sales of those goods — the city wouldn’t be able to begin accepting conditional use permit applications until 8 a.m. Jan. 2.
Buffers recently put in place by the city will limit the amount of facilities that could open if the ban lifts — and Dan Cummings, community development director, has estimated that number could be anywhere from 10 to 15.
Among restrictions of distance from schools, daycares, parks and residential neighborhoods, is the 1,000-foot buffer between recreational marijuana facilities. Cummings said it is for that reason and the first-come, first-serve stipulation tied to the land-use applications that the line formed.
“If zero buffers were set, there would be no lines because there would be no need for it,” he said, adding that he’d checked with other cities, including The Dalles, which had put buffers in place and seen the same result — with some people waiting in line for weeks.
Cummings and City Manager Adam Brown worked for most of the day on Friday drafting an agreement for place-holding. Input was sought from some of the individuals in line, as well as Ontario City Council members and City Attorney Larry Sullivan.
“We got something we thought was agreeable,” Cummings said.
When it came to signing the agreement, however, there were objections by those waiting in line, with some saying attorneys advised them not to sign anything.
So Cummings on Friday night asked them to remove the tents and big canopies — some of which have now been replaced by “umbrella structures,” reiterating that he can’t make them leave a city sidewalk or right-of-way.
Furthermore — saying “we can’t stop them” — he asked one entity that arrived with armed guards (in security uniforms with bulletproof vests and guns) to tone it down.
Cummings said he told them, “This is a little overkill, and it’s making things look bad, please tell people to take that stuff off,” adding that they complied with the request.
Brown echoed Cummings’ Monday morning, saying that he felt the armed guards were unnecessary but added that they also were “perfectly legal.” Still, he said, “it doesn’t make people feel warm and fuzzy.”
The Argus fielded one phone call from a concerned citizen on Friday about the presence of weapons. When checking with Ontario Police Chief Cal Kunz on the matter, he echoed what Brown said, adding that Oregon is an open-carry state.
Brown also fielded calls of concern, saying ones he received were “more so about the looks” of the line that had formed.
As to whether any new groups are in line now, Cummings said he is going to wait until Wednesday morning to check, adding applications will only be accepted if voters lift the ban. Meanwhile, he did get the new buffer maps up on the city’s website along with the recorded ordinance amending Title 10A. It is up to the user to determine whether their property meets the established buffer requirements, Cummings said in an email.
“If the vote fails and they [voters] don’t lift the ban, hopefully they’ll go home,” Cummings said. However, “unless something changes on the business license side of things, they’ll be out there till January 2 if they want a spot.”
Cummings emphasized the need for the City Council to set rules about how the city will accept applications.
Brown said the plan is to discuss the matter during the council’s work session on Thursday, “assuming we can get together with the attorney before that and put something together.”