During the study session preceding January 19th’s regular City Council meeting proposed changes to the City’s medical marijuana dispensary spacing requirements were discussed at length.
Councilor Bruce Bledsoe asked City Attorney David Widdoes for details on how the spacing is determined and said that he has had more than one constituent complain that the City can be inconsistent in its measuring practices. “We need a common measurement so everything is equal,” Bledsoe stated.
At its January 4th meeting, the Council voted to change the wording in the City code regarding these requirements from “facilities” or “establishments” to “dispensaries.”
This item is closely related to the ongoing issue of spacing requirements between dispensaries outside of the Central Business District (which is, essentially, the heart of downtown).
As it was written, the code stated that there must be 300 feet between dispensaries in the CBD and 1,000 feet between those outside of it. However, some felt that this was too limiting and that the 1,000-foot requirement should be reduced.
Bledsoe maintained that regardless of whether or not the requirements were changed, “we need consistency.” After a discussion over the state’s statutes (there are none addressing the distance from dispensary to dispensary, only from schools) and how different departments have been conducting their measurements, Widdoes agreed with Bledsoe, saying, “I think
there’s a need to clarify the spacing requirements,” and noted what several other nearby cities’ practices are.
Councilor Vickie Beyer stated, “I spent a lot of time looking at this because I feel like we need to do the right thing for Sapulpa.” She said that she believes the Planning Commission’s Special Use Permit process “is working” and that it feels like there is one specific applicant “who isn’t willing to follow that policy that others are willing to use. That tells me the policy isn’t the problem…I don’t feel the need to change a good policy.”
When the item came up on the agenda during the regular meeting, Councilor Brian Stephens quickly made a motion to pass the spacing change and Councilor John Suggs seconded it.
Bledsoe interjected and asked to add verbiage to the motion on how the measurements are determined. Widdoes clarified that it would be “from nearest wall to nearest wall.”
David Mortazavi, the owner of local restaurant Steak and Eggs, addressed the Council next, stating that he also owns the vacant building to the west of his restaurant on the southeast corner of Mission and Taft (some will remember it as the old Stockard’s gas station property). Mortazavi said he believes it was his tenant’s SUP application at December’s Planning Commission meeting that prompted this issue and that of the wording change to “dispensary” to make its way to City Council.
He explained to Beyer and the rest of the council that as he is the owner of the building and is leasing it to the applicant and potential dispensary operator, he wasn’t unwilling to follow the original policy, it was his tenant’s choice. He also emphasized that “you all aren’t just changing the code for me, but for all prospective medical marijuana dispensary owners.”
Visibly upset, Mortazavi asked, “If someone approached you and wanted to occupy your building during COVID, how would you want the council to vote? This is an empty, ugly building. A gentleman from out of town wants to come in to fix it up and put money back into the town…what if it were your building?” He said that limiting free enterprise in this industry sends a message that the City isn’t willing to work with business owners and entrepreneurs.
Ultimately the motion passed, with only Councilors Martin and Beyer opposing it.
Earlier in the study session, Finance Director Pam Vann gave a mid-fiscal-year update on the City’s budget. Most importantly, unlike many other nearby cities and those across the state (including Tulsa), Sapulpa’s sales tax is around a million dollars over what was originally budgeted. This is largely due to three factors–Sapulpans not venturing to Tulsa to do their shopping and instead of shopping locally, a spike in online shopping, and marijuana dispensary sales. Bledsoe noted that ordering from the Sapulpa or Glenpool Walmart online and picking it up or having it delivered keeps sales tax dollars in the City, whereas shopping outside of our City limits prevents Sapulpa from getting that sales tax revenue.
In attendance were a handful of people there to protest the recent 120-day extension of the mask mandate. During the time for public comments, mask mandate opposer Tori Williams admonished the Council for approving the extension and told them “you are violating the oaths you took as City Councilors” and asked them to each “please read the U.S. and Oklahoma Constitutions.” She continued, saying that she had sent each of them literature explaining her reasoning, and told them, “It’s so important you read these documents I’ve sent you and that you understand them. I expect you to honor the oath you took.” She also gave Mayor Craig Henderson two books for him to keep and to read.
Mayor Henderson told Williams that he respects her energy and the time she took to speak to the Council, even if they don’t agree.