The Westminster Planning and Zoning Commission will hold a public hearing Thursday evening, Dec. 14, to consider a rezoning application for a proposed medical marijuana dispensary off Md. 97.
The public hearing is just one item on the commission’s agenda to be taken up at a meeting scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 1838 Emerald Hill Lane.
“All of the public are welcome and encouraged to attend,” said William Mackey, director of community planning and development. “The focus of the public hearing on Thursday is for the Planning and Zoning Commission to make an advisory recommendation to the Mayor and Common Council.”
The proposed site of the medical cannabis dispensary is 700 Corporate Center Court, part of an office park located near Westminster City Pond but accessible from northbound Md. 97 at an intersection north of Krider’s Church Road.
The location sits inside a zoning overlay district approved by the Westminster Mayor and Council in November 2016 in response to state medical cannabis law, according to Mackey. The city ordinance is available online at www.ecode360.com/30577661, and a map of the medical cannabis overlay — which includes mostly commercially zoned areas along Md. 140 and Md. 97 — is online at www.tinyurl.com/y7hqatnn.
“The focus of the city’s ordinance is to identify potential areas on the zoning map that would be eligible for consideration for a proposed medical cannabis use,” Mackey said. “The ordinance requires a review and references meeting the physical premises requirements for security as set forth in state law.”
State law also requires that local jurisdictions allow medical cannabis operations: In September 2015, Maryland Assistant Attorney General Kathryn Rowe wrote in a letter to state Sen. Bobby Zirkin, D-Baltimore County, that counties did not have the authority to prohibit medical cannabis operations, even through zoning powers.
“We’re basically mandated that we have to allow for some type of zoning for it within the city limits,” said Westminster Councilman Tony Chiavacci. “I think we made a good choice in terms of picking the areas for that overlay.”
The Maryland General Assembly first approved medical cannabis in 2013. But delays in the crafting and implementation of regulations by the Natalie M. LaPrade Medical Marijuana Commission led to a number of legislative reboots, including changing the official state terminology for the plant from medical marijuana to medical cannabis, and renaming the commission as the Natalie M. LaPrade Medical Cannabis Commission in 2015.
It was not until August 2016 that the commission announced the ventures that had won preliminary approval to grow medical cannabis in the state. Maryland Compassionate Care and Wellness LLC was one of those granted a license to grow and process cannabis, but not to dispense it, and is currently growing cannabis in a Taneytown facility.
In December 2016, two ventures were given preliminary approval to dispense medical cannabis in Carroll — state law limits the number of dispensaries to two in each of Maryland’s 47 senatorial districts — My Bond LLC and DLD Enterprises Inc.
It is DLD Enterprises that is applying for the rezoning at 700 Corporate Center Court, a property that sits inside the overlay, according to Mackey. The planning and zoning commission will consider the appropriateness of that rezoning on multiple levels, he said.
“Potential topics for discussion include the applicant’s proposed location as well as the proximity of public schools; the adequacy of streets and highways; the availability of public water and wastewater systems; and the adequacy of all other public facilities and public services that would be needed,” Mackey said.
“Once the commission’s review is final, then city staff would prepare notices — mailed, posted and in the newspaper — to advertise a future public hearing of the Mayor and Common Council.”
Oral and written comments will be accepted in person at the hearing, or can be delivered to Mackey in advance at 410-848-7967 or firstname.lastname@example.org. He can also provide materials on file related to the application.