HUBER HEIGHTS — The Huber Heights City Council Monday night sent a clear message by voting against an ordinance that would have approved a zoning code to allow medical marijuana production in the city.
Council voted 6-2 against the measure then followed that vote with approval of a 180-day moratorium on any other medical marijuana applications in the city. Council Members Glenn Otto and Richard Shaw voted for the amendment to the zoning code and against the moratorium.
The vote came after a number of people presented arguments for and against allowing medical marijuana cultivators to come to the city.
Tim Johnson of Cannabis Safety First of Columbus was involved as an advisor in the construction of House Bill 523, which made medical marijuana legal in Ohio, led off the discussion by calling medical marijuana “a valuable tool for opiate recovery” and cited the medical and economic benefits of medical marijuana.
Later during the discussion, Steve Anevski and Chris Acosta of FW Green Investments presented a slide show that detailed the case for medical marijuana. FW Green hoped to develop a marijuana cultivation facility on Kitridge Avenue in Huber Heights.
Most of the crowd that filled council chambers was against allowing medical marijuana to be produced in the city.
David Erhard of Dayton and Jennifer Harrelson of Dayton, both who live near the proposed site, spoke against the location near a residential area and the impact on property values.
“It’s my opinion that medical marijuana is not good for our community, it’s not good for our youth, it’s not good for property values, it’s not the kind of business Huber Heights or Dayton needs to bring to our community,” Harrelson said.
They were joined by Melissa Patachi, who has been one of the most outspoken opponents of the marijuana proposal. Patachi’s statements drew widespread applause from the audience.
“We do not want to risk our future with the probability of multiple negative impacts that medical marijuana will surely bring, especially when it becomes recreational, which we believe will be only a matter of time,” she said. “Please, I implore all of you, do not let Huber Heights go to pot.”
Patricia Lockard called allowing medical marijuana in Huber Heights is like “opening a Pandora’s box.”
“We are a special place and it’s all right for us to be a special place,” she said. “We don’t have to say yes to any of this.”
The real debate started when council took up the issue.
City Manager Rob Schommer had explained that a survey requested by council was under way and would be completed by the end of next week. The survey, which is expected to cost around $14,000, is designed to determine residents’ feelings about a medical marijuana facility in Huber Heights.
But Council Member Ed Lyons called for a vote on the ordinance, which was in its third reading Monday. Janelle Smith quickly seconded the motion.
Otto and Shaw said council should wait on the results of the survey before taking a vote.
“I don’t know why you guys would request a survey and then vote without the results of the survey,” Otto said. He said it would be a waste of the $14,000.
Smith said the people of Huber Heights deserved a vote on the issue. Lyons said information from the survey could be used in later discussions about the issue.
Shaw said voting down the ordinance would kill medical marijuana in Huber Heights.
“To be completely blunt, if this vote goes down, if it fails, there will be no marijuana business in the city of Huber Heights, period,” he said. “As a matter of fact, I could actually tell you, I would be confident that would be, ever. These gentlemen will walk and will go to another city.”
Mayor Tom McMasters said that voting the issue down would eliminate the city’s chance to get in on the ground floor of the industry.
Council Member Tyler Starline reminded council about the planning commission’s 5-0 vote for the change and urged council “not to rush” a decision. However, he said he would vote against the proposal if the vote was held Monday.
“The prudent thing for our residents on something as dramatic as a zoning change, something that will have significant legal impact, sometimes it’s smart to wait even a little longer,” he said.
Council then held the vote, and Starline voted with the majority to deny the zoning regulation changes and for the moratorium.
The vote was greeted with widespread applause in council chambers.
Acosti of FW Green indicated during the meeting that his company would pull its application out of Huber Heights if the vote failed, but after the meeting he declined comment.
Patachi said she was thrilled with the vote but didn’t believe it was the end of the issue.
“I unfortunately do think that anyone can afford to be sleeping on this one,” she said. “We are going to have to be very diligent and watch what council does and what comes down the road.
“They were talking about cultivators. We have processors, dispensaries coming down the road in Ohio and I think we might have these same discussions about those facilities.”
Shaw, who had championed the medical marijuana cause for many months, was disappointed.
“It’s good to see democracy work,” Shaw said. “But I am disappointed in my colleagues for their lack of research. I do agree that this decision was not a zoning decision. I agree many individuals made it a personal decision.”
Shaw said investors will see the majority of council voted against medical marijuana and will now look elsewhere. He said it was a missed opportunity for the city.
“The moratorium came up late last year,” he said. “It was never hinted at whatsoever that anybody wanted to move in that direction. So why it took some of these individuals 10-11 months to come to that is mind boggling because the research has been presented and not at one time did I get a phone call or e-mail from any of my colleagues asking for any of my research.”
Reach Dave Lindeman at 937-684-8983 or on Twitter @HH_Courier.