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Medical marijuana and a downtown arena – city council to tackle hot issues

The city council chambers will likely be packed tonight with supporters of two different breeds – those rallying to keep the Kings in Sacramento, and those fighting to keep medical marijuana dispensaries in the central city. Catch our live coverge below: 

On tap is a public hearing to amend the city’s zoning code as it relates to medical marijuana dispensaries. In keeping with federal law, Councilman Darrell Fong wants to extend the distance dispensaries can operate from schools and parks, from the current requirement of 600 feet, to 1,000 feet. 

This new requirement would force the roughly 10 remaining dispensaries located in the central city to move, said Councilman Steve Cohn. The council will also consider allowing them to apply for a special permit that would allow for that distance to be modified.

After many dispensaries’ landlords received a threatening letter from four California-based U.S. Attorneys in October 2011, most, if not all, will have to move from their current location, Cohn said.

"They all need to relocate," he said. "So there’s really no benefit from the grandfather clause. It was stay where you were, even if you’re not in compliance, but they can’t take advantage of it, so they’d end up in districts 2 and 6, in industrial areas."

In the past, dozens of medical marijuana advocates have shown up at city council meetings to voice their concerns, saying that patients with limited means of transportation will be adversely affected if dispensaries are pushed into industrial areas.

D4 Councilman Steve Hansen said he’s not sure the right balance has been struck when it comes to the proposed ordinances. "I’d like to wait and see what the California Supreme Court decides," he said. "But we the city can do better on this issue – I’d like to see if we could form something that’s reasonable."

In other news, the city is ramping up its negotiations to develop a downtown entertainment and sports center and is asking the council for guidance and money. In a three-pronged motion, the city is asking the council to pass a motion that:

1. adopts principles for due diligence and the negotiation of preliminary terms for the potential development of a downtown entertainment and sports center.

2. authorizes the city manager or his designee to complete due diligence and negotiate preliminary terms for the development of a downtown entertainment and sports center consistent with the adopted principles.

3. authorizes the city manager or his designee to increase city agreement #2013-0108 with Barrett Sports Group by an amount not to exceed $90,000 and subject to approval as to form by the city attorney.

The council will also be asked to approve the transfer of $150,000 in general fund money to the city manager’s office budget, to pay for legal and professional services as it pursues a downtown complex.

Assistant City Manager John Dangberg said due to the scope of the project and the fact that a sports arena isn’t something the city manager would normally charter, "he wanted to get their direction before turning to negotiations."

"This is a very large project and we need to be well represented," Dangberg said. "I can assure you that those we’ll be meeting with will be well represented. We want to be well represented also, to get the best deal for our city and citizens."  

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