PIQUA — The Piqua City Commission unanimously approved a zoning amendment prohibiting medical marijuana cultivators, processors, and/or retail dispensaries within the city during their meeting Tuesday evening.
Prior to their vote, a resident came forward and urged the commission to reconsider the ban on medical marijuana facilities, arguing that it would be an economic boost.
“Piqua is no longer the city of opportunity,” Dena Schneider of Piqua said. “We’ve been passed by by businesses and everything else. This could possibly take us into the future.”
Schneider recommended the old plant nursery on County Road 25-A as a possible cultivator site. Commissioner Judy Terry noted later in the meeting that would not be possible even if there was no ban, as one of the regulations for medical marijuana facilities includes that they cannot be within 500 feet of a park.
Schneider also noted that she researched a dispensary in Springfield, Ill., noting that, while there are differences between laws in Ohio and Illinois, the business has over 350 customers each week. She also said that the dispensary only had one police call since it opened in February 2016, stating that it was an unfounded welfare check.
“Just imagine the city of Piqua having a really nice dispensary in maybe one of the old buildings downtown and having 300 people come through Piqua,” Schneider said.
Schneider also asked the commission to keep open the possibility of having a local option open for those who do not have the ability to travel very far. “If all towns around here say, ‘No, we don’t want this’… Where are people supposed to go?” Schneider said. “I have a friend who’s 79. She’s got Parkinson’s. Is she supposed to get in a car to go to Cincinnati? That’s not right.”
Schneider also argued that this could be a boost for future generations, saying, “It’s our next generation. It’s our town’s future … We need to do something because we’re becoming the city of empty buildings and low wages, and that’s not what I want for my grandchildren.”
Bradley Boehringer of Piqua also asked the commission not to “go to an outright ban.” He also referenced the point that the zoning code can also be amended in the future to allow medical marijuana facilities after the city sees the type of effect it has on other municipalities within the state. Boehringer said he did not believe that would happen.
Boehringer also made the comment, “I personally don’t smoke it myself, but I have friends that do. I won’t begrudge them a little smoking, and I don’t think you should either.”
Commissioner Bill Vogt responded to Boehringer’s comments, saying that medical marijuana is not for “friends that smoke.” Vogt went on to say, “I do believe when they (the state) come down with the rules in place for every dispensary, cultivator, and all that, it will be reconsidered, but we cannot put anything on the books that is so wishy-washy as what they presented with us at this time. Realizing that there are people that need this, hopefully they will find a place close by to get it. But, contrary to what the last gentleman said, he has friends that smoke, this is not for people that smoke. This is for people that are sick.”
The other commissioners took turns speaking in favor of the zoning amendment, citing that they want the city to be in control of whether or not medical marijuana facilities locate in Piqua.
“I think this puts us in the driver’s seat,” Mayor Kazy Hinds said. “It allows us to make a decision, and then as we look back, as we know what’s going on with the state, we can revisit that. I agree that for some people for medical reasons it is important, but I think for the city at this point making this decision is a good thing to do, so when it comes time to revisit, we will be in the driver’s seat and we won’t have somebody else telling us what to do.”
Commissioner John Martin said that this is not an “outright ban,” adding that he would like to see the city “proceed with caution.”
“I would rather see the residents of Piqua have the control,” Martin said.
Terry also agreed.
“It’s not as easy as we think it is, and we can revisit it,” Terry said.
Commissioner Joe Wilson also brought up how medical marijuana will not be given out as a prescription and will rather be given out as a “recommendation.”
“We can’t treat it like it’s a drug at a drug store,” Wilson said. “Until it’s at that state, I don’t think it makes any sense … It needs to be controlled like a medicine, otherwise it will be abused.”
In other news:
Diane Miller and Al Fledderman of the former Fourth of July Association donated remaining funds within the organization to the city as a thanks to the city departments for their help in the past. They gave $4,000 to the Piqua Police Department, the Public works Department, and the Fire Department. They then gave approximately $387 to the city employees.
The commissioners and City Manager Gary Huff commended them and the former Fourth of July Association. Terry said that the association has “provided so much enjoyment for so many people” during its existence.
Hinds presented police officer Jeremy Koehler, who is the Police Officer of the Year, with a proclamation naming this week as Police Week in the city of Piqua, commending the work that police officers do.
“There are approximately 9,000 law enforcement officers serving in the communities across the United States, including the dedicated members of the Piqua Police Department,” Hinds said. “There have been 15,548 assaults against law enforcement officers in 2016, resulting in approximately 14,453 injuries.” May 15 was also Peace Officer’s Memorial Day in honor of all fallen officers and their families, Hinds said.
The commission also approved an amended agreement with the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) on the Bike Path Connections project. The city will be putting an additional approximate $30,000 in escrow to be used for that project, as the lowest bidder, R.B. Jergens Contractors, Inc., was 3.8 percent over the engineer’s estimate. The local portion for the project has increased to not exceed $285,798, which includes a 10 percent contingency.
The commission also awarded a contract to Wall Bros. Asphalt Co., Inc. for the the 2017 Street Resurfacing program, which the Piqua Daily Call will follow up on in a later article.
The commission then authorized a purchase order to Sherry Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Inc. for the purchase of a pick-up truck for the Underground Utilities Department. The cost is $26,647.
Reach Sam Wildow at email@example.com or (937) 451-3336