SPRINGERVILLE — Two marijuana dispensaries were denied conditional use permits at an overflow public meeting on Nov. 8 of the Springerville Planning and Zoning Commission.
The 3 p.m. hearing coincided with Election Day, and the commissioners were questioned immediately about that timing.
“Why is this meeting scheduled on Election Day at 3 in the afternoon when the majority of this community (is) at work and can’t be here?” a Springerville resident asked commission Chairman Terry Shove.
“You know, I don’t have an answer for you,” Shove replied.
Seats for 24 people were provided at Springerville Town Hall, but a crowd of over 60 Apache County residents attended. Of those in attendance, about 40 took the opportunity to speak to the commission. Each person was given exactly three minutes to speak with only four attempting to push past that designated time limit.
Steve West, a former police chief, councilman, mayor and town manager in Springerville, spoke and advocated for allowing the CUPs. West summed up his remarks at the meeting in an email to the White Mountain Independent, saying, “When we had a dispensary before, we had no issues with it. There were no ‘children-use’ issues, and when the last dispensary was open, the town received about $17,000 a quarter in fees and taxes.”
Henry Lever, of the Apache County Libertarian Party, received a small round of applause for his statements in favor of the CUPs.
“I urge this committee and the members of the community to look first to the issue of freedom. People have the right to use their property as they see fit and to exercise their bodily autonomy. By denying this license, the community would be violating the dispensaries’ rights,” Lever said.
Mike Campbell, of Eagar, spoke in opposition to the CUPs. He is the president of the Chrome in the Dome nonprofit and spoke passionately on his fear of cannabis becoming more accessible to Apache County children. He urged the commission to consider the opinion of the people saying, “I’m sure you know that most of this room does not want this here, so do your work and make sure you do it properly.”
Josephine Gallagher, a senior citizen from Eagar, also spoke passionately, coming to tears while informing the meeting attendees of her granddaughter, who was born addicted to marijuana, she explained.
Gallagher asked the commission, “Have you ever seen a baby who’s addicted to drugs? I’ve cried a thousand tears, so that’s why I’m here against it.”
The two organizations applying for the CUPs were given three minutes to speak. Terri Candelaria, owner of Serenity Smoke, was applying to use the space at 279 E. Main St. in Springerville. Peter Marcus was in attendance to advocate for Apache County Dispensary, a subsidiary of Terrapin Care Station, and was hoping to be allowed permission to operate at 279 S. Mountain Ave. in Springerville.
Candelaria stressed her small-business mindset, saying, “I’m local, and I’ll work closely with the town ensuring an unintrusive, safe transition. My grandson goes to the middle school here, so I know how important it is that we get this right.”
Marcus spoke about Terrapin’s infrastructure and history in the marijuana industry, saying, “We’ve been around 13 years and we have seen everything involved with this industry.”
After a brief discussion with both parties, the commission moved behind closed doors to deliberate. The private session lasted for 55 minutes, during which most of the people who had gathered had gone home, leaving fewer than 20 to hear the commission’s decision.
After four hours, the commission voted unanimously to deny both organizations their requested CUPs, citing issues with their applications.
Commissioner Trinity Raymer elaborated by saying, “The ordinance reads, ‘... the name and location of the off-site marijuana-cultivation operation associated with the dispensary.’ The way that we read the word ‘operation’ is something that’s in operation, not something that is projected to be built in the future.”
Shove said before adjourning, “As many of you know, we’ve done this a few other times. The town was very adamant, after our pot farm debacle, that no one was going to allow the cultivation of marijuana in this community.”
Both Candelaria and the representatives from Terrapin expressed their intention to appeal the commission’s decision.
Two days later, both Serenity Smoke and Apache County Dispensary filed appeals with the town. ACD’s appeal reads, “Although the name and location of the cultivation site affiliated with the Application were clearly provided in the Application and at the hearing, the Commission, in error, found that the Ordinance requires the cultivation site be currently operational and not projected in the future; a legal impossibility.”
Candelaria and Serenity Smoke’s appeal relayed a similar position, reading, “I contend the Commission incorrectly asserted that the Application was incomplete because it did not specify the off-site marijuana cultivation operation associated with the dispensary.”
Both appeals will be heard at 6 p.m. on Wednesday at the Springerville Town Council chambers at 418 E. Main St.
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