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Tigard bans pot shops from Main Street

Retail stores limited to Pacific Highway, can apply for business licenses in May.

Tigard City Councilors have banned marijuana retail shops, including medical dispensaries, from opening in the city's downtown. Instead, shops will be limited to retail spaces along Pacific Highway.When work crews finished a major reconstruction of Southwest Main Street earlier this year, city leaders touted it as one of Tigard’s first “green streets.”

Apparently, they didn’t mean the kind of green that comes with legal marijuana.

On Tuesday, the Tigard City Council approved a plan detailing how marijuana dispensaries in the city would be regulated, in this case forbidding marijuana dispensaries from opening within the downtown.

It’s a different plan than the city put forward last month, however, when Tigard unveiled its initial plans for the shops. At that time, storefronts selling marijuana — either medical or recreational — were limited from opening anywhere but on Main Street and along Pacific Highway.

Under the new rules approved Tuesday, marijuana retail shops (for medical use or recreational) are limited to Pacific Highway only, and would be banned from Main Street altogether.

City leaders said that they changed their minds about allowing Main Street locations after several residents and downtown business leaders spoke out against the idea.

“Tigard should want to encourage and enhance a feeling (that) our downtown is a family-friendly area,” resident Linda Cook wrote in public testimony. “I do not believe that a clustered combination of liquor store, smoke shop and marijuana dispensary along Main Street is what the community should project as its image.”

Many of the complaints came from downtown businesses, as well as the Tigard Downtown Alliance, which also opposed the plan, saying that allowing marijuana retailers in the city’s heart would undermine the work the Tigard is doing to improve its downtown.

But the downtown area was one of the most sought after spots in Tigard, said Tigard planner John Floyd.

Floyd has spoken to about a dozen people interested in opening dispensaries on Main Street alone.

One of those business owners is Bill Widmer, general manager at Kaleafa, a Portland medical marijuana dispensary that's looking to expand.

Widmer has already signed a 5-year lease for a building on Main Street and had planned to open next month.

Kaleafa did not respond to The Times about the new regulations by press its deadline, but previously told the City Council that there was a difference between the public perception of marijuana shops and reality.

"I believe there is a misunderstanding about what this business is all about," he wrote. "People come and go like any other business and we make a positive contribution to our local community, and if allowed, we'll do the same thing in Tigard, being highly responsible citizens."

Ban lifts May 1

Under the new regulations, marijuana shops on Pacific Highway must have their front entryway visible from the street.

That’s to help Tigard Police, Tigard Mayor John L. Cook said. Because marijuana businesses are largely cash-only, the risk for crime is higher and police need to easily respond to any incidents that may occur.

“There are reasons for not having them spread around the city,” Cook said. This way, “police can know where they are and can keep track of them all in one fell swoop.”

The city also increased the distance between shops. Under the new regulations, dispensaries must be farther than 2,000 feet from one another, rather than 1,000 under the city's previously proposed rules. They must also be located 1,000 feet or farther away from schools.

“That is not as big of a difference as you might imagine,” Floyd said.

Assuming shops were able to find retail space at just the right distances, Floyd estimates that six marijuana shops would be able to open along Pacific Highway, compared to eight under the previous 1,000-foot buffer.

The 2,000-foot buffer between shops is also used by Washington County.

The regulations go into effect immediately, though the city’s moratorium won’t be lifted until May 1; after that, medical dispensaries can apply for business licenses. Recreational facilities will have to wait until the state law goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2016.

“A number of medical operators that we have spoken with hope to convert to (recreational) sales at some point in the future,” Floyd said.

The Oregon Liquor Control Commission is currently working on new rules for how recreational marijuana dispensaries will operate. Cook said it’s likely that the city will have to amend its regulations once those new regulations are put in place.

“We’ll have other discussions throughout the year as the rules come down (from OLCC),” Cook said. “Those are all going to change in the future, but we have to start with something and expanding is better than if we decide we want to try and contract our regulations later.”

Even with Tigard’s change of heart in the downtown, the city is still taking an opposing view from neighboring Tualatin, which imposed even stricter limitations earlier this month.

Under Tualatin’s regulations, pot shops are relegated to a small space of industrial land near the city's border with Sherwood.

Those regulations lead some opponents to worry that Tualatin is exposing itself to legal action for what they see as a defacto ban on marijuana in the city, which under Measure 91 is illegal without a public vote.

By Geoff Pursinger
email: gpursinger@commnewspapers.com
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