Medical marijuana establishment brings to light need for a change Sapulpa’s 2030 Comprehensive Plan

The regular City Council meeting on Monday, August 17th was attended by all 10 City Councilors, in person or by teleconference. 

New officers sworn in by Judge Laura Farris.

Three new Sapulpa Police Officers were sworn in by Judge Laura Farris. They were Josh Moreno, Hayden Vernon, and Randal Arnold, Jr. 

Three new medical marijuana establishments were approved for Special Use Permits. All three were also approved at the Planning Commission meeting on July 28th. 

The first, Green Country Research, Inc. was approved to allow medical marijuana processing at their facility at 4550 West 57th Street South in Tulsa. 

This nondescript building is the site for a medical marijuana processing facility. It was used in identifying an area where the 2030 Comprehensive Plan might need to be amended.

The second, The Legal Plug 918, which makes creams for cookies and lotions, is located at the northwest corner of Johnson and Johannes, in a former restaurant. This SUP was a bit more contentious, partly because its location is in an area that is zoned residential in the City’s 2030 Comprehensive Plan. Originally staff recommended denial due to this designation, but the Planning Commission approved it. Pastor Scott Gordon, who owns the building, likely had something to do with that approval. He spoke both at the Planning Commission meeting and at City Council on behalf of business owner Stacy Hardwick. He said that the “community is totally fine with [this business].” He commented that he was against it until his wife was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and used some of their products, which “helped her tremendously. They gave [her] life.” He said there are many “other people in the community who are taking [these products] and using them with great success.” He said that the business “has security, they have had no problems with break-ins, they’ve gone through all the certifications they need, and they don’t sell weed there. It’s just a processing facility, not a distributing facility. Never will be.” 

The applicant also spoke about his business’s discretion in the neighborhood, saying, “We are not a dispensary. We do not keep marijuana on the premises. We don’t even buy what people would smoke, and we don’t need a lot of it to make our product. We do infusions into honey, cream, butter, etc., then wholesale our products to dispensaries. They don’t come to our location. Most of our customers are in Tulsa. We have been in business for just over a year, and the community didn’t know, because I figured the less they knew the better. There are never more than three cars at the business.” Councilor Bruce Bledsoe expressed incredulity that the business had been in operation for over a year and didn’t know they needed an SUP. Nikki Howard, the Urban Development Director, and City Attorney David Widdoes, were quick to speak on behalf of the owner. Howard said, “I can speak to that. I believe these folks honestly did not know they needed an SUP.” Hardwick stated, “We didn’t know. We honestly thought we had followed every portion of the law. When we initially got our license and got our facility, we were instructed to go to the Creek County Health Department, so we went there and to the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority…As soon as I found out we were out of compliance with the City of Sapulpa, I came to the City to do whatever I could to get in compliance. We have been out of business since then. Widdoes said, “I can confirm that they ceased business immediately.”

Councilor Hugo Naifeh said, “I was dead set to vote against this before coming here. People before have said that the council doesn’t care about this neighborhood. But I have an issue with that. We’re putting a lot of money into that area. What will this do to that and with the comprehensive plan?” Pastor Gordon answered, saying, “We’re looking at maybe trying to put some other commercial things there,” and imparted that he walked the area with community leader and former Economic Development Director Ted Fisher. He said that he and Fisher see the area as an “opportunity zone,” and said he’d like to see “more business in the north side of Sapulpa” such as “a retail store…I do understand that it is zoned residential, but I hope we can get more commercial businesses up there.” Widdoes interjected, “Let’s be clear, the property is already zoned commercial. The question is: ‘Should the comprehensive plan be amended to reflect reality?’ Not ‘Is this in compliance?’ There would seem to be a need for a commercial component in that area to support the new BTW recreational center. It’s not unusual for there to be strips of commercial business in residential areas. It has been commercial there for some time.”

Councilor John Suggs asked Howard if she was aware of any other areas in the City where actuality may be inconsistent with the comprehensive plan, other than this one? Howard answered, “Yes.” Suggs asked, “And how much commercial activity is in that area?” Howard answered that there are about “half a dozen areas” where “it’ll have a residential designation [on the comprehensive plan] but should have commercial.” At this point there was a discussion on whether or not to table the issue while the matter of inconsistencies in the comprehensive plan are discussed. Eventually, Naifeh made a motion to approve the SUP, seconded by Brian Stephens, with the stipulation that a comprehensive plan amendment is put in place to change the future designation. Widdoes emphasized that the motion included a condition that will have to go through the Planning Commission and “the whole process” in order to address amending the comprehensive plan. Mayor Craig Henderson wanted to ensure that the applicant can move forward with their business while the process to possibly amend the comprehensive plan is undertaken. Widdoes clarified that yes, an approval would mean Hardwick and his family could continue business operations. The motion passed 7 to 3, with Lou Martin, Vickie Beyer, and Marty Cummins voting no. 

This building on New Sapulpa Road, formerly the home of a Vape shop, will now become a medical marijuana dispensary.

The last medical marijuana SUP up for a vote was a new retail dispensary establishment at 10289 State Highway 66, which is in the small strip center just south of La Margarita Mexican restaurant. The shop is being built out by local restauranteur Chad Cacy and his business partners, Craig and Tammi Barnett. Howard commented, “Good news, this one is a lot easier [than the previous one]! If I could pick a perfect place for a dispensary to go, this would be it.” The business will fill a vacant retail space that used to be a vape shop in an area that is designated commercial on the comprehensive plan. Additionally, there were no negative public comments on the matter, and neither the staff nor the Planning Commission had any problems with it. 

Several items dealing with street improvements were up for discussion and all were approved. 

There will be progress made to the storm drain improvements downtown at Park and Dewey, the new traffic signal at the intersection of 49th West Avenue and State Highway 117, an ONG easement adjacent to the Wastewater Treatment Plant, and the roadway connection of Highway 117 and Highway 66 to Ozark Trail,  

Potholes in West Burnham Avenue. Twenty-seven residents near the street have asked city attorney David Widdoes about repairs to the road.

Widdoes said he received a request to speak from about 27 residents near West Burnham Avenue asking for repairs on the road. He said he has visited with the Fire Chief because he had no knowledge of the issue. “So we will be looking at it immediately.” A homeowner on the block who currently lives in the Washington D.C. area, Darla Imes, spoke convincingly on the need for street repairs there, in part due to Caring Community Friends’ facility’s upcoming expansion. Mayor Henderson asked her to please write her questions down, and said that they will take a look at [the situation]. Councilor Cummins said that Ross “needs attention too,” and Henderson said, “We will certainly visit those streets.” 

Next to speak was The Lakes at Cross Timbers resident Ken Ayres, on the lack of “silt fencing” at the new addition to the north of his neighborhood, The Reserve at Cross Timbers. He has addressed the Planning Commission and the City Council on several occasions over the last few years, prompting Henderson to say, “I think most of us are very, very familiar with the situation.” Widdoes said, “I’d like to confirm that [the City is ] aware of the situation and we have had contact with the developer. We thought corrective action was taken immediately.” Henderson assured Ayres that “The [Council and City] will certainly address this and continue to study it.” 

The regular Sapulpa Municipal Authority meeting followed City Council.   

Water Treatment Plant Superintendent Robert Petitt spoke about a Professional Services Agreement with Guy Engineering Services, Inc., to complete an Action Plan for repairs to Sahoma Lake Dam and Sapulpa Lake Dam in the amount of $25,000. Petitt said the Plant received a letter from the Oklahoma Water Resources Board (OWRB) requiring them to put together a plan of action to address deficiencies with our two lake dams. The report is due at the end of October. Petitt said “we need to let [the OWRB] know what we plan to do in the future to repair big-ticket items, like resurfacing the spillway. It’s going to be large. The purpose of the study is to outline what work needs to be done and how much it should cost.” He further reported that he will be meeting with Widdoes, City Manager Joan Riley, and Hardt to start working on a timeline. This was unanimously approved. 

The next regular City Council meeting will be held Tuesday, September 5th (due to Monday being Labor Day) at 7 p.m. at City Hall. 

E. B. Thompson

E. B. Thompson

Elizabeth Thompson is the News Editor for Sapulpa Times.