Assembly stands by pot zoning decision

The Juneau Assembly has decided to not revisit its Nov. 9 decision allowing limited commercial cultivation of marijuana in some residential areas.

At a work session Monday night, the Assembly voted 7–2 to kill a motion by Mayor Mary Becker that would have reopened the zoning discussion for the purpose of prohibiting grow operations of any kind in D1 residential zones.

Becker’s motion, however, was more a formality than anything. Each Assembly member spoke briefly about his or her position on the matter before Becker made her motion. It was clear she didn’t have the votes.

“Even if we do support an industry beginning, I’m not sure that it can only begin if we allow growing in D1 areas,” Becker said, explaining that she thought it was important that the Assembly at least discuss the zoning regulations again in light of recent public outcry.

The Assembly received two petitions of 100 signatures or more before Monday’s meeting. One requested the Assembly to revisit its zoning decision. The other requested the Assembly to stand its ground.

Assembly member Jamie Bursell, who was appointed Feb. 11, was the only other person on the Assembly who supported Becker’s motion when it came time to vote, but she hadn’t been alone up until then.

While discussing how she felt about the matter, Assembly member Kate Troll said she would have liked to have reopened the zoning discussion because it was decided with a 4–4 vote the first time around. Had a majority vote set the rules, Troll said she wouldn’t have been interested in revisiting the issue.

Assembly member Jerry Nankervis won Troll over with his take on the situation, which he didn’t get to vote on initially in November because he was out of town and without cell service.  

Though he didn’t support the ballot measure that legalized marijuana, Nankervis said he would have supported allowing limited grow operations in D1 and Rural Reserve zones had he been present at the Nov. 9 meeting. He said the Assembly’s decision should stand.

“I haven’t seen anything in here that leads me to believe that decision was so fatally flawed that we need to open it up and talk about it again,” Nankervis told the Assembly. “If it’s going to be a business, I would prefer that it’s treated much like any other … and that we don’t create any additional or unnecessary obstacles for them to have to get over.”

Like Nankervis, Assembly member Barbara Sheinberg, who was appointed in early January, also argued that the process leading to the zoning decision was sound and deserved to be respected. Because she wasn’t on the Assembly when it set the zoning rules, Sheinberg said she read all 300 pages of the Assembly meeting packet, which chronicled every step of the zoning decision.

“You could almost feel the agony over each decision through the meeting minutes,” Sheinberg said. “What I ended up feeling was that there had been a really good credible process, and that’s what struck me the most.”

Another ordinance related to marijuana establishments will be introduced at Monday’s Assembly meeting. It will likely be set for public hearing in a few weeks.

• Contact Sam DeGrave at 523-2279 or at sam.degrave@juneauempire.com.

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