'High-end' marijuana dispensary planned for downtown Scottsdale. Some residents are pushing back – AZCentral
Corrections & Clarifications: Jason Rose’s occupation was incorrect in a previous version of this article.
Downtown Scottsdale may see its first medical marijuana dispensary — if it can overcome the potential hurdle a nearby preschool presents.
Sunday Goods, which operates an all-natural cannabis farm in southeastern Arizona, wants to open the dispensary in the current Club Tattoo building downtown, near Fifth Avenue and Winfield Scott Plaza.
The company is headquartered in Scottsdale and has plans to open a dispensary in north Phoenix.
Some Scottsdale residents expressed concerns about this type of business coming to the area, but others say they would welcome a dispensary downtown. Erica Diloreto said that she currently has to travel to Phoenix or Tempe to get medical marijuana.
“(A dispensary) would benefit patients in the area as well as the community,” Diloreto wrote in an email to the city.
There are no medical marijuana dispensaries operating in the city between the Scottsdale Airpark and Tempe, according to a city memo.
Sunday Goods hopes to change that as the number of medical marijuana users in Maricopa County has increased by nearly 400%.
But city rules that dictates how far away dispensaries must be from schools could present a problem. A preschool operates down the street from the proposed dispensary location.
Scottsdale’s Planning Commission voted 6-1 in August to recommend that the City Council approve the dispensary.
The agreement is written with a stipulation that if the council approves the request, the dispensary would not be able to open until the preschool moves, Cluff says.
The conditional use permit and zoning cases for Sunday Goods were scheduled to go before the the City Council on Tuesday, but the hearing has been postponed until Nov. 12.
Growing population being underserved
The number of qualified medical marijuana users in Maricopa County increased from 25,407 to 119,941 from 2013 to 2018, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.
In 2016, the AZDHS identified areas throughout the state with a high number of qualified patients but a low number of dispensaries to serve them. South Scottsdale was among the most underserved areas in the state, according to a city memo.
South Scottsdale’s only existing dispensary, MedMen Cannabis Dispensary, is located near Via De Ventura and Pima Road. No dispensaries exist from Via De Ventura south to Tempe.
In 2017, the AZDHS held a second lottery of applications for medical marijuana licenses, and Sunday Goods was awarded the sole license to open a dispensary in south Scottsdale.
A preschool stands in the way
Scottsdale zoning rules prohibit dispensaries within 1,500 feet of elementary schools or preschools, places of worship and public parks. State licensing laws must conform with local municipal codes.
The city mapped out all of the potential locations where a dispensary could open in south Scottsdale and found nine downtown properties that could accommodate a dispensary under the city’s zoning rules, according to Jason Morris, an attorney representing the dispensary.
“You can regulate where these uses go, but you can’t regulate them out of existence,” Morris said. “We have no other options as to where this license can be placed.”
ALLHANDS: Sunday Goods, summed up in 2 syllables: Ka-ching
But the city did not account for Perform To Learn, a preschool that operates approximately 300 feet down Winfield Scott Plaza from the planned dispensary, according to Bryan Cluff, a city planner.
Joe Chandler, an attorney representing the owner of Perform To Learn’s building, says the preschool operator has given no official notice that they plan to move or terminate their lease.
Chandler also says the preschool operators have received no formal offer from the applicant to move.
But Jason Rose, a spokesman representing the dispensary, says Sunday Goods has a contract with the school to relocate it.
The Arizona Republic was unable to reach the preschool’s operator for comment.
But other neighboring residents are fighting to keep the dispensary out of their neighborhood.
As part of the city’s community outreach requirements, the applicant notified residents and businesses within 750 feet of of the project and held an open house in February to share their plans.
Several residents emailed the city in support and opposed to the project. Cluff said the emails have been overwhelmingly positive, but the reception of the immediate neighbors has been more negative.
A group of business owners with properties near the proposed site submitted a petition to the city opposing the project, saying that a dispensary would “reduce property values.”
“No developer will be interested in developing residential real estate where marijuana is dispensed,” the petition read.
Rose said he has consulted with Scottsdale’s police chief to assess any issues that have arisen around other dispensaries in the city. No issues were identified, he said.
“I think one of the reasons public support for medical marijuana is so high is because dispensaries have operated pretty responsibly,” Rose said.
A poll of 300 residents conducted by Public Opinion Strategies also gauged Scottsdale voter support for a dispensary downtown. The poll was commissioned by Sunday Goods.
In the poll, 66% of Scottsdale voters said that a medical marijuana facility near the Scottsdale Galleria was a good idea, with 24% opposed. South Scottsdale residents supported the dispensary 69% to 21%.
Resident Daniel Eaton also flagged concerns about parking issues, the potential for a rise in crime and “a noticeable rise of pot users” downtown.
Rose said the applicant asked to postpone the council votes in order to answer the community’s concerns.
“It’s hopefully going to come out of the other side a better project,” he said.
‘High-end’ medical marijuana
If approved by the council, the tattoo parlor will move out and the building will be renovated to house the dispensary.
City planning documents describe the design for the dispensary as “a high-end retail experience that looks like something that might be found at Scottsdale Fashion Square or Scottsdale Quarter.”
The dispensary’s design will attempt to combine a traditional drugstore feel with organic wellness retailers that promote holistic medicine, Morris said.
“If you want an analogy, it’s going to be the center two aisles of a Whole Foods,” Morris said. “The idea is to create something beyond what we’ve seen statewide and not a liquor store for marijuana.”
Sunday Goods will sell holistic medicine and clothing merchandise in addition to medical marijuana products.
Sunday Goods is planning to improve the city-owned right-of-way located near the property along 5th Avenue and Winfield Scott Plaza and turn it into a small pocket park, with landscaping, seating areas and artwork that could host food trucks and other vendors.
Those improvements will occur as part of a separate application to come after the rezoning application.
“These are no longer hidden, they’re no longer behind-the-scenes uses,” Morris said of the dispensary. “When you take them from behind the scenes, it requires you to up not only the quality but also the design.”
Have a tip out of Scottsdale? Reach the reporter Lorraine Longhi at firstname.lastname@example.org or 480-243-4086. Follow her on Twitter @lolonghi.
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This article originally appeared here in https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/scottsdale/2019/10/03/downtown-scottsdales-first-medical-marijuana-dispensary-may-open/3816847002/