By Teri Carnicelli
It’s down to the wire for a proposed medical marijuana facility at 16th Street and Glendale Avenue, as the applicants face a final decision by Phoenix’s Board of Adjustment on March 1.
The business, Mitchell Song 64 Alpha, LLC, has filed a request for two zoning variances and a use permit for the proposed site, which currently is operating as Animal Dermatology, PC, located to the east of the Chevron gas station.
Mitchell Song, DVM, has owned and operated the clinic at 1616 E. Glendale Ave. since April 2003 and is part of the new partnership. The 1,618-square-foot building was constructed in 1964.
Song explained, “I know firsthand the benefit that medical marijuana has for patients. My 87-year-old father had a problem with pain and anorexia, which was helped by the addition of medical marijuana to his life. It took the pain away and enhanced his appetite. It was a much better alternative than opiate drugs.
“I also have seen the benefit in animals,” he added. “By applying CBD oil, this has helped many animals with chronic pain from arthritis and cancer. Medical marijuana is safe and beneficial drug for people and animals.”
According to city zoning regulations, a medical marijuana dispensary needs to be 500 feet away from residentially zoned property. This proposed location would be 114 feet from a residential boundary line, so a variance is required.
Medical marijuana dispensaries also are required to be at least 1,320 feet of a place of worship. The closest place of worship is 461 feet away, therefore, another variance also is needed.
In addition, a use permit is required to place this type of facility in a C-2 zoning district.
A hearing before the city’s Zoning Administrator was held Dec. 14, at which time Zoning Adjustment Hearing Officer Ray Jacobs denied the requests. The applicants filed an appeal the to Board of Adjustment, which will the final arbiter in the application process.
Song pointed out that, “There are many in this area who are medical marijuana card holders with qualifying conditions who currently are not being served. We see the site as a very good location with direct access to an arterial road.”
The closest medical marijuana dispensary is just over 3 miles away—Swell Farmacy, at 1040 E. Camelback Road, which is not convenient for those living near the proposed site without their own transportation, who must rely on public transit.
“We are encouraged by the number of local residents who see this as a positive service for the community,” Song said.
One of the city’s conditions for granting a variance is that it is necessary in order for the owner or applicant to enjoy “reasonable and substantial property rights.” The city further clarifies this to mean that without the variance, the property cannot be reasonably used.
Jim Carney, who drafted a letter of opposition and also spoke against the application at the Dec. 14 hearing, argued that since the property currently is being used as an animal clinic, it could easily be used as some other kind of commercial business that doesn’t require a variance or use permit but would be allowed by right under the C-2 zoning.
The applicants contend that from the site there is “no direct access to any residential community.” But Carney points out that the adjacent Grand Canal is not an adequate buffer between the proposed dispensary site and the wider community. “Rather, it is more of a highway providing another point of ingress and egress, with unrestricted access to a broader area than would otherwise be available from a similarly situated property because of underpasses at Glendale and 16th Street.”
Security is typically a major concern for those living near a medical marijuana facility, as these types of business usually operate with cash-only transactions. Song explained that the facility would have 24-hour video security, plus on-site security guards during hours of operation.
“We look forward to bringing the community a safe and secure operation with limited operating hours and enhanced security,” he said.
The Board of Adjustment will consider the applicant’s appeal at its regular meeting scheduled for 12 p.m. Thursday, March 1 in the City Council Chambers, 200 W. Jefferson St. To confirm this item is on the agenda, visit www.phoenix.gov, select “Other Public Meeting Notices” under City Business, and find the posted agenda 24 hours in advance of the meeting.
To comment on this appeal, send remarks to firstname.lastname@example.org. Make sure to include ZA-538-17 and the Board of Adjustment hearing date of March 1, 2018.