Marijuana moratorium is put on ice
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In a heavily anticipated decision, the city took no action regarding an ordinance creating a 90-day moratorium on both zoning variances and permits for itinerant vendors. The ordinance was created to give the city's Planning and Development Committee more time to decide how to update zoning and decide how best to handle issues with medical marijuana grow operations and dispensaries. But the ordinance presented to the full Council during Monday evening's meeting also put the skids on any building permits. "And that isn't something we want to do for all the summer construction coming up," Public Works Director Dave Peterson said. One home buyer will be asking the city for a zoning variance to enable the building of a garage on a home he is thinking about buying. Without the variance for the garage, he won't buy the house, Peterson said. The committee's intention was to look at people who are moving from one criteria to another or people looking at non-conforming use, said Janet Trethewey, sharing her concern that the first reading of the ordinance will be delayed two weeks. A representative of Bosch, Kuhr, Dugdale, Martin & Kaze PLLP, the law firm retained by the city, said that she agreed that the reading of the ordinance should be put on hold until the next meeting when the language can be changed. The broadness of the wording was an oversight And communications were crossed, Mayor Tim Solomon said after the meeting, adding that it's frustrating. Having been involved in law enforcement and government processes, Mark Stolen said he understands why the Council has to wait to read the ordinance for the first time. However, "I've got to say I'm just really disappointed, as I can tell many people on the Council are, too," Stolen said. "I'd just like to ask you not to lose faith," he told Council members, adding that he knows members are in a difficult position to make a decision. Kathy Sangray, who has been vocal in the debate about how to handle the issue of medical marijuana, focusing on public safety, also shared some of her thoughts on the issue. There are zoning issues, she said, but "more importantly, we need to have time to address the medical marijuana issue," she said. "We want to have some answers about how our interests are going to be protected … I want to make sure that we're going to be safe. So vote in favor of the moratorium, just simply recognizing that there are still a lot of unanswered questions," she said. "It's not necessarily voting against the whole issue, but just that we need to have some more time to address some of the issues that we have." Georgina Kaftan said that when she moved to Havre years ago, its reputation was poor, but hard work to improve the city has paid off and the city's reputation is looking better. "And you're trying to draw in businesses, and I think that we need to be really careful and aware of what type of image you want Havre to have," she said.