Medical marijuana moratorium to end?

Wesley LeBlanc
Posted 1/10/18

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Although given a reluctant green light, medical marijuana treatment centers may be closer to a reality in Clay County.

The Clay County Board of Commissioners discussed …

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Medical marijuana moratorium to end?

Posted

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Although given a reluctant green light, medical marijuana treatment centers may be closer to a reality in Clay County.

The Clay County Board of Commissioners discussed two courses of action at its Tuesday meeting regarding medical marijuana, one of which will be voted on for approval at the next meeting.

On Jan. 9, the board was reminded that the one-year moratorium – essentially, a temporary ban – expires on Jan. 24, and that moving forward, the board has two options, in the form of ordinances, to choose from.

The first ordinance presented to the board was an ordinance that, if put into place, would ban medical marijuana facilities in the county for 24 months. The second ordinance presented to the board allows medical marijuana facilities in the county under conditional use. Those conditions state that a medical marijuana facility is allowed in any zoning district where pharmacies are allowed and that these facilities can only be open between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m.

The proposal also calls for these facilities to have a set of rules to follow when determining signage for the business. Signs may not be visible from streets and sidewalks and a sign may only be affixed to the building itself or act as a window sign. The signs are also not allowed to use common words, phrases or images used in signage for recreational marijuana use. Finally, the facility may not be within 500 feet of a school.

At the meeting, the board was not expected to choose an ordinance that they prefer, as this was simply a first reading of the two options. At the next board meeting, the two ordinances will be read again and the commission will make a motion to vote on which ordinance they want to approve.

This discussion of ordinances comes from a previously-held meeting where the Board of Commissioners instructed the Planning Commission to determine two potential courses of action the board could take in moving forward with medical marijuana discussions in the county. At a Jan. 2 meeting, the Planning Commission discussed the same two ordinances that the Board of Commissioners discussed Jan. 9. At the Jan. 2 meeting, the Planning Commission voted 3-2 to recommend the second ordinance, which allows facilities to operate in the county under conditional use.

In other business, Finance Director Clayton Meng requested the transfer of $7 million from the general funds reserve to be used for the unanticipated costs of Hurricane Irma recovery and debris cleanup.

“As you all know, our only unrestricted revenue source is general funds,” Meng said. “Although spending $7 million or $10 million, whatever the final cost is, is not a happy story to tell, I do know from discussions with me and my colleagues around the state that a lot of counties are having to take out loans, or bonds, to front what ends up being a delayed turnaround from FEMA.”

Meng assured the BCC that because of their reserve, they won’t have to look at receiving help from a bank – in terms of a loan or a bond – to cover the costs they have forthcoming.

“We are very fortunate that we have those reserves available to pull on in a situation like this,” Meng said.

As far as reimbursing the general funds reserve, when reimbursement money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency is received, the money will be allocated back to where it was originally taken. The county has received $185,000 in total state and federal money in reimbursement from Hurricane Matthew costs, proof that reimbursement is a slow process. The county is expecting around 75 percent of their costs to be reimbursed, or in the case of Hurricane Matthew costs, $1.5 million.

Meng said that he is under the impression that final costs for Irma recovery will go above $7 million.

“An easy number is $10 million and if that’s the cost, we would end up shouldering $2.5 million at the end of the day if we ever get fully reimbursed,” Meng said.

After about 10 minutes of discussion, the BCC voted 5-0 vote to transfer the $7 million.

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