A Lawton businessman will be allowed to locate a medical marijuana processing facility in a commercial building along South 11th Street, but only if he doesn’t use volatile chemicals, City Council members said.
Jason Miller submitted a Use Permitted on Review request to locate a processing facility in conjunction with a medical marijuana dispensary at 1011 SW C. The site, formerly a business office, is inside a commercial strip center on the corner of Southwest C and South 11th Street. That location — inside a building with other businesses — drew concerns from the City Council, as well as members of the City Planning Commission. The CPC recommended the proposal be denied because of concerns about chemicals and the potential effect on nearby tenants.
Deputy City Manager Richard Rogalski said Miller already may legally place a dispensary at the location because its C-5 General Commercial District zoning allows dispensaries. It is the processing facility in conjunction with a dispensary that necessitated the Use Permitted on Review request, and that process allows the council to set criteria to allow a specific use, city attorneys said.
That additional criteria was the ultimate compromise five of the eight council members accepted (Ward 2 Councilman Keith Jackson, Ward 3 Councilwoman Linda Chapman and Ward 5 Councilman Allan Hampton voted no).
Rogalski said the use of volatile chemicals was one of the sticking points for CPC members, explaining the potential for extreme processing measures “could get out of hand.”
Miller, who already operates medical marijuana facilities in Lawton, said the processing he will use at the Southwest C Avenue location is not extraction and does not use flammable chemicals. He said is already planned to operate a dispensary at the location and needed a site to prepare his product, and doing that on site will lessen costs. Miller also said that his two existing businesses already provide 14 jobs (another seven are calculated with the opening of the new business) and have generated more than $100,000 in sales taxes.
Ward 4 Councilman Jay Burk, owner of a medical marijuana facility in a stand-alone building on Cache Road, said the council changed city code to allow placement of processing facilities in conjunction with dispensaries in commercial areas along arterials as a means to fill empty buildings with revenue-producing businesses. He said the ordinance focuses on dispensaries —businesses that generate sales tax— with processing as an auxiliary use.
While Miller’s proposal is a good use for a commercial building located on an arterial, Burk said he is concerned about the odor from processing and its effect on other tenants of the commercial strip building. Ward 8 Councilman Randy Warren said that is the complaint he is hearing: existing tenants in the same area who can smell the odor associated with medical marijuana businesses.
Miller conceded nearby tenants may smell the odor, especially if a building has a shared air system.
“We can’t prevent the gentleman from dispensing,” Warren said, adding the solution would be to grant the Use Permitted on Review but specify volatile processing may not be used.