City Council justifies zone request denial

Miles City Council members struggled as they tried to document the reasons for rejecting a zoning request at Tuesday night’s meeting.

The issue before them was whether the old Dairy Queen land at 2110 Valley Drive East should be zoned highway commercial instead of general commercial. Land to the south of it is general commercial and north of it is highway commercial.

Highway commercial would open up the land to larger commercial buildings and medical marijuana dispensaries.

The proposed use is a dispensary, but that could not enter into the decision making. Permitting such a business is up to the Board of Appeals, which would get the issue if the zoning change passed. 

John Hoofman of JNJ Management LLC in Helena made the request and has other medical marijuana dispensaries in the state. 

Two dispensaries are located on the adjacent land. They are registered by the Department of Public Health and Human Services’ Montana Marijuana Registry.

Hoffman was in the process of buying the land, owned by Joseph and Janine Yates of Payson, Utah, when the city updated its zoning to specify where dispensaries and sexually orientated businesses could be located. 

Before that, since no areas were specified, they could be located anywhere.

All of the council seemed to oppose the use, but also opposed the zoning change on it’s own merits, but the discussion kept going back to medical marijuana.

Contracted planner Matthew Rohrbach of Land Solutions and City Attorney Dan Rice went line by line through the highway commercial definition to document which points the council opposed, in case a lawsuit should be filed.

Each line was discussed and voted on whether the council people felt it was allowable or they objected to it.

As Rohrbach continued to press for reasons, the need for the documentation to be exact and clear was mistaken for support for medical marijuana and several times he stated he had no view on it personally.

The nearly two-hour discussion was wearing to everyone, and when some of the council members wanted to postpone the discussion, they were told it was already postponed as much as it could be.

It had earlier been voted down, but came back up so the public hearing could be held. 

In the public hearing, neighbors voiced their opposition to the zoning request.

Jerry Dusatko of Sandhill Sewing didn’t feel a community this size needed three medical marijuana dispensaries.

Jim Regan of Regan Plumbing agreed, pointing out their close proximity to a church.

He also pointed out that the old Dairy Queen building is where the bus picks up and lets off Kircher School students.

The request was defeated by a vote of 5-3 with Jeff Erlenbusch, Dwayne Andrews and Susanne Galbraith voting for and Rick Huber, John Uden, Brant Kassner, Kathy Wilcox and Ken Gardner voting against.