By Nicole Montesano • Staff Writer • 

City rejects pot dispensary reconsideration

Why, asked City Councilor Kellie Menke, hadn’t she seized the opportunity to express her reservations and concerns when the council held its public hearing on the issue last month, drawing testimony only from a trio of dispensary supporters. “I know you were there,” Menke said.

“You’re right,” Hill responded. “All I can say is that I probably should have.” But she said, “We didn’t then, and we can’t undo that.”

Hill said the action taken by the Leadership Council, which had 11 of its 21 members present when it met March 6, was prompted by a bill moving toward apparent legislative approval at the time. That bill, subsequently passed and sent to the governor, would allow cities and counties to hold off on dispensary siting for up to one year.

“We are not critical of the ordinance you passed,” she told city councilors. “It was based on the law that was in place at the time, given the time restrictions that you had.”

However, assuming the governor signs the bill, cities now have until May 1 to enact one-year bans, she noted. And she said the Leadership Council, which consists of the leaders of key local institutions like the sheriff’s office, chamber of commerce and school district, believes the city should do so.

Hill said it would give McMinnville “time to deal with collateral damages,” and to “watch how other cities deal with the issue.”

Three dispensary supporters, all of whom testified at the original hearing, rose to speak in opposition to reconsideration.

H2Organics owner Jim Galba, who has a McMinnville dispensary application pending with the Oregon Health Authority, reminded the council that it put off its original hearing for two weeks. He said that allowed “ample time for these 11 citizens to prepare for the hearing, as it did for me and two other citizens who testified.”

Galba accused the Leadership Council of engaging in “shenanigans” serving to disrupt a process already well underway.

“Just because they have names like Jack Crabtree and Jeb Bladine,” he said, referring to the county sheriff and News-Register publisher, both of whom are members, “they should not bear more weight than people like me. I have already spent thousands of dollars to proceed, based on the outcome of this concluded public hearing.”

Councilor Scott Hill, who came out on the losing end of a 3-2 vote when the council granted its approval, welcomed the Leadership Council’s call for reconsideration. He termed marijuana “a gateway drug.”

He was joined by Councilor Kevin Jeffries, who missed the February vote. Jeffries said that he couldn’t, in good conscience, “support something that’s against federal law.”

However, City Councilor Paul May, the other dispensary opponent in the February showdown, missed Tuesday’s meeting. And Council Alan Ruden, who missed the February vote, sided with dispensary supporters Menke and Larry Yoder.

Menke made it clear she could not support re-opening the issue. “There were two opportunities for people to come forward and express their views, and we certainly expected them to come forward,” she said.

Ruden took the same tack, saying, “Whether I agree with dispensaries or not, if we went through the process, we need a really good reason to go over it again. And I just haven’t heard that.”

In other business, the council:

n Decided not to participate in appealing a zone change the county granted Riverbend Landfill to set the stage for an expansion application.

Three people urged it to do so — landfill neighbor and opposition leader Ramsey McPhillips and local winery owners Jason Lett and Marcus Goodfellow. They praised the council for taking an eleventh hour stand against landfill expansion, even though it missed the deadline for submission of testimony for the record, and urged it to follow through.

McPhillips also took the opportunity to apologize for the harsh and combative tone of a letter he had submitted to the council. Having invested 20 years of his life fighting the landfill next door, he said, “I’m obsessed and I’m angry.”

City Manager Kent Taylor told the council that joining in legal action against the county could have repercussions in other areas. He said the city staff recommended against it, and that ended up carrying the day.

n Authorized Fire Chief Rich Leipfert to proceed with plans for the purchase of three replacement vehicles for the fire department.

Four of the city’s seven firefighting vehicles are in need of replacement, Leipfert told the council. He said a 1980 ladder truck, 1978 engine and 1976 water tender were particularly deficient.

After exploring various options, Leipfert said, the department thinks the best approach would be to buy two new vehicles, a ladder truck and a rescue pumper, at a combined total of about $1.1 million, and try to acquire a used water tender for around $100,000.

He said a vendor is offering a package deal for the two new vehicles that would run the city $105,000 a year for 15 years.

n Authorized Parks and Recreation Director Jay Pearson to apply for two state grants. Pearson hopes to obtain grant money for replacement of a kitchen shelter burned by vandals, replacement of a footbridge spanning a stream, addition of some cement pathways in picnic areas, and installation of security cameras.

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