Ashland considers 100-foot buffer zones around pot dispensaries

The Ashland Planning Commission Tuesday discussed the possibility of requiring 100-foot buffer zones between medical marijuana dispensaries and residential areas, parks and libraries.

The commission is discussing possible regulations to recommend to the City Council as it moves forward with a city ordinance on dispensaries.

Only five people — three adults and two children — attended the evening study session.

"It's imperative to have good planning in place," said William Clary, a neighbor of the proposed Top Shelf Meds dispensary on Williamson Way, which is in a business zone adjacent to a neighborhood.

Though the commission asked Clary to refrain from talking about specific dispensaries, he urged members to consider buffer zones around areas with lots of children, such as North Mountain Park, near where Top Shelf Meds would be.

With six applications for dispensaries received so far, the Ashland City Council is considering a moratorium on dispensaries while it crafts city regulations for how the new businesses will be approved.

The council has proposed banning dispensaries from the downtown area, considering conditional use permits for dispensaries in employment zones and permitting dispensaries in commercial and industrial zones.

With state regulations currently governing where and how dispensaries will be run, the Planning Commission and City Council are working quickly to decide how Ashland will handle the newly legal businesses.

"There's a sense of urgency," said planning manager Maria Harris.

The commission discussed enacting buffer zones around houses, parks and libraries, and then granting special permits on a case-by-case basis depending on where dispensaries might be located.

Commissioners also discussed whether hours of operation would be regulated and how much security would be required for dispensaries.

The city will hold a public meeting tonight at 6 p.m. at The Grove, 1195 E. Main St., to hear input from neighbors about the proposed dispensary on Williamson Way.

The commission is asking city staff to draft a map that shows 100-foot buffer zones around residences, parks and libraries to better understand the effect of buffer zones on possible dispensary locations.

The commission will hold a public hearing May 13, and then make a recommendation to the City Council on what regulations the city should implement.

— Teresa Ristow

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