February 10, 2022
February 10, 2022
Commissioners Scott Miller, Scott Blain, and Bill Bullock; and Administrative Officer Angela Newell were present.
8:30 Pledge of Allegiance.
Mary Moser and Rick Moser from Bridger joined for public comment to express their concerns about the Robert’s dispensary’s distance from the school. Commissioners discussed the process to implement interim zoning that is later on the agenda.
8:35 Sheriff McQuillan joined the meeting.
Discussion about tavern association that polices themselves for liquor licenses Commissioners have encouraged marijuana business licensees to do something similar. Discussion about putting marijuana legalization back out to the voters; Blain and Miller noted there has not been a request from constituents to put back out for a vote and that they respect the original vote. Mary emphasized the need to protect children. Blain agreed that it is in bad taste to be across from the school as would a bar across the street.
8:40 Chip Bennett from Red Lodge joined for public comment. Discussed statute for distance from school; discussed feedback form Dept. of Revenue that for the distance rule to apply, the business and school must be addressed on the same street. Discussion about local restrictions that could be implemented and the option to go to legislature at their next session to revise the law. Bullock requested that further discussion regarding Marijuana wait until its time on the agenda
Bennett discussed Carbon County being a non-partisan County; Commissioners recounted that voters voted in favor of the the local government study question in 1994; the Study Commission recommended the County change to non-partisan and in 1996 county voters voted in favor of non-partisan elections. Bennett also discussed the Sheriff’s Office Facebook post regarding the Montana Local Integrity Project canvas. McQuillan noted local law enforcement made the request to dispatch to put up the post; at the time of the request, there had been calls from concerned citizens and law enforcement did not know who the canvassers were. McQuillan noted he was informed of the issue and was quickly in contact with the head of the Local Integrity Project in Missoula. McQuillan emphasized that his Office had no forewarning of the canvasing and did not know what was going on. Bennett believes the post should have gone through the Sheriff not an employee. Mary Moser is concerned the post tainted the canvas. Bullock noted there were reports of someone representing themselves as a representative of the Secretary of State.
McQuillan noted his desire to move forward with better communication, so his Office can provide information to public and make it right with canvasser. McQuillan noted working on internal procedures for social media posting and will be attending a class regarding social media next week. McQuillan noted his office is constantly requesting the public report any suspicious activity so that they can be aware of the issue and address it. Blain agrees that some of the Facebook posts were blown out of proportion. Blain noted that people going door to door for anything is not a popular activity.
Miller moved to furnish District Court Clerk Rochelle Loyning a County Credit card; Bullock seconded; Bullock noted he came into town multiple times to pay for jury meals with his card, would like Loyning to have standard department head limit of $5,000; motion carried.
Commissioners signed copier maintenance agreements with Peterson Quality Office for new copy machines/printers for the Commissioners, Extension, and Sheriff’s Office.
Blain moved to approve Claims for January 2022; Miller seconded; discussion about setting up checking account for County Attorney for process service and Drivers License history fees to avoid special check runs; motion carried.
Bullock moved to appoint Marybeth Ellis to the Carbon county Library Board as a Bridger District representative; Blain seconded; motion carried.
Discussed Federal FFP surplus skid steers; $4,600 shipping for two skid steers, one for Bridger Road and one for County Building.
10:00 County Attorney Alex Nixon joined for his regular meeting. Discussed Roberts robbery jury trial. The verdict took about 24hours, but resulted in conviction.
Miller moved to approve Commissioners Proceeding for January 18 and 20, 2022; Blain seconded; motion carried. Meeting closed to discuss personnel issue.
10:17 Deputy County Attorney Jacque Papez joined the meeting for the personnel issue.
10:22 meeting reopened.
10:30 Meeting to discuss local Marijuana Regulations. Nixon, Papez, McQuillan, Contract Planner Forrest Mandeville, Treasurer Lori Lynde, Ed Hall, Pat Plowman, Mary Moser, Rick Roser, Michael Keys, Kristin Keys, Alex Ator, Alan Stuber, Bob Mensik, Cherie Mondragon, and Sanford Langoger were present. Bullock gave overview of ground rules and Nixon provided an overview of County authority in regard to marijuana businesses. Noted issues with HB 701 provisions for denying a marijuana business license if “the proposed license premise…is within 500 feet of and on the same street as a building used ….as a school.” Because the dispensary across from the street from the school in Roberts is not addressed on the same street, the 500 ft separation does not apply. Nixon noted that those in favor of marijuana business regulations may not be in favor of zoning, but this is the tool that can be used to address developments. Papez noted local government authority to regulate marijuana businesses including the authority to regulate inspection of marijuana business buildings. Mandeville discussed mechanisms for inspections, could be a zoning criterion or a building regulation, but would likely have to develop building codes. Miller moved to adopt Resolution 2022-04 Intent to Enact Interim Zoning Regulations on the Sale and Production of Marijuana; Blain seconded.
Commissioners discussed proposed regulations. Commissioners would like to set some sidebars to prevent any issues with the significant increased volume in marijuana business applications. Blain noted I190 passed, but barely passed in Carbon County by 81 votes. Blain noted he is not in office to push what he wants and respects the vote of the County noting it only passed in 4 precincts in the county. Blain noted 1,000 feet in draft regulations was used out of caution, would rather have the distance in final regulations decrease than increase. Blain noted the attempt to balance personal property interests for marijuana businesses and others. Bullock opened the issue to public comment.
Pat Plowman Boyd – provided information regarding harmful effects of Marijuana. She requested that language of ordinance be published in the paper.
Alex Ator, Roberts Superintendent – speaking on behalf of Roberts School Board expressed concerns about the dispensary across from the school as advertisements for the business are what children see from the bottom of the playground slide. He is concerned the repeated exposure may encourage adolescent use of marijuana. Ator noted he would have similar concerns if the advertisement were for alcohol or tobacco products. Ator concerned that the dual purpose dispensary/convenience store could also increase student’s exposure to marijuana. Thanked Commissioners for help.
Sanford Langoger, Roberts – presented a petition and personal letter opposing the store across from school in Roberts (Attached).
Al Stuber, Roberts, lives across the street from the school. Concerned about store in Roberts and echoes Ator’s concerns and the issue with repetition and what we are “training out kids to do.”
Ed Halland, Bridger, urged Commissioners to place as many restrictions as they can. Voiced his opposition to recreational marijuana.
Michael Keys, Red Lodge and general manager for SweetGrass Dispensary, believes other business owners in the county agree that the store in Roberts is in bad taste. Keys and others are urging him to shut down his store because of the impacts it may have to the rest of the businesses in the County. Noted before their store opened they had discussions with elected officials to make sure it was properly placed. Keys noted similar influx of businesses when alcohol prohibition was lifted, but he believes the free market will eliminate the less professional businesses. Keys agrees with placing regulations in the county to keep dispensaries where they need to be. Keys believes marijuana is less damaging to a community than alcohol or gabling, noted customers that have reduced their alcohol consumption by substituting with marijuana. Keys confirmed his opposition to Mountain Organics’ choice of location.
Nixon asked about shed type dispensaries using outhouses and if it would be appropriate to have some sort of more permanent structure. Discussion with McQuillan regarding safety of employees and customers for businesses operating out of kiosks. After just finalizing the Lost Village robbery trial and with the recent robbery at the Bridger Family Dollar. Keys asked that marijuana businesses be treated like any other business. Nixon expressed concerns about the cash sales and wondered if it could potentially make these businesses targets; McQuillan agreed it is a concern. Keys noted cash picked up often and the security systems they have in place; noted guidance to employees to leave building if they are approached by someone making them uncomfortable. Keys noted every dispensary is required to removed product nightly and place it in a locked room and cash is placed in a safe. Keys reviewed the requirements for employees including a State background check every two years. He has also discussed a serve safe course similar to what is required for alcohol sales. Keys emphasized the potential for tax revenues with the local option tax.
Discussion circled back to limiting sheds that are popping up. Mandeville noted the county could using zoning to regulate the form of building and require a permanent foundation (not on skids); Mandeville noted the applications that are coming in are not just dispensaries, the also include: cultivation, delivery service, and multi-marijuana business licenses in one roof. Nixon expressed concerns about vulnerability of employees leaving building to use bathroom facilities. Keys noted the policy of their store is that no employee is to be in the shop alone, doors must be locked when one is using bathroom facilities.
Ator noted the difference in operations/professional between different businesses. Emphasized the need for longevity and supported the desire for permanent structures.
Cherie Mondragon, Roberts. Noted the dispensary in the center of Roberts is very busy and frequented by out of area folks. Blain noted his surprise when that facility was put in place and there were not complaints.
Blain encouraged Keys and other marijuana businesses in the County to pressure businesses that are not on the up and up similar to the self-policing of the Tavern Association. Keys noted his working toward something of that nature. Keys noted his investment in his business and would hate to see marijuana legalization go back to a vote especially for those that are aided by cannabis.
Al Stuber, Roberts – asked about general location of businesses in proximity to schools, noted commercial property across from school would not be able to be a marijuana business because it is on the same street.
Bob Mensik, Fox – discussed tax revenues. Concerned that new problems may arise from legalization that require additional revenues to address. Keys asked Billings Police Detective about issues with marijuana and he noted most of their issues are related to meth and alcohol.
Rick Moser, Bridger – requested Commissioners act with expediency. Concerned about dual purpose structures.
Keys noted that no new licenses can be secured before July 2023; all new businesses are branches of existing licensed businesses. Discussion regarding State moratorium on new Dispensary licenses until 7/1/2023. Current licenses are non-transferable at this time.
Discussion regarding sanitary facilities; Mandeville noted permanent pluming is not required if the facilities are not accessed by the public. Discussion regarding septic regulation or requirement to tie into municipal/district sewer system.
Mandeville noted County’s history is to grandfather in non-conforming structures, might be process to allow for an “amortization period” to allow non-conforming structures to come into compliance.
Keys requested the community also put pressure on dispensary at the old Y-Stop. Discussion about further sign regulations that limit what kind of verbiage can be placed on a sign so that the word “marijuana” or images of marijuana products are not displayed. Discussion about the State’s licensing structure; the tired structure limits the number of businesses under one license.
Discussion about the State Department of Transportation’s approval of signs off the highway for the dispensary in Roberts.
Multiple additional public comments were received in email format and are attached.
Bullock closed the public comment and called for a vote on the Resolution of Intent; motion carried.
Respectfully submitted: Angela Newell, Administrative Officer