This story was originally published in the Peninsula Clarion.

On Wednesday, the Kenai City Council unanimously prohibited marijuana cultivation facilities in residential zones.

There were no public comments regarding the ordinance at Wednesday’s city council meeting, but several council members spoke in support.

“Generally in the past, I’ve been in support of limiting commercial business in residential zones, when neighborhoods requested that,” Councilmember Bob Molloy said.

Council member Henry Knackstedt said he wished the amendment could have been caught sooner when the original marijuana cultivation regulations were being created.

“It’s a long process, with a lot of detail,” Knackstedt said. “We knew we’d be coming back to these.”

The amendment only affects standard-size cultivation facilities, which are 500 square feet or greater. Limited cultivation facilities, which are less than 500 square feet, are still permitted with a conditional use permit.

The Planning and Zoning Commission found that standard commercial cultivation may have an “unjustifiable impact on residential neighborhoods given the potential business nature of a larger scale cultivation, including numerous employees and increased traffic that is not compatible with residential neighborhoods,” according to the ordinance

Before the Planning and Zoning Commission denied a permit to a marijuana cultivator at their March 14 meeting, commissioner Robert Springer said he believed property values would be affected by marijuana facilities that are located in and around residential zones, according to the meeting minutes.

“I’m a real estate broker and I know that potential buyers for real estate property are typically made aware of marijuana facilities through the disclosure requirements by the state and that most buyers are very particular,” Springer said. “And if they see one aspect in the neighborhood they don’t like, they may not buy. Which then puts all 21 parcels that are residential owned in jeopardy of not being able to sell their property.”

At the end of the March 14 meeting, commissioner Springer suggested that the commision revisit the issue.

“My point is we got a lot of commercial buildings that are vacant, a lot of commercial land that’s vacant,” Springer said. “They can easily house these facilities, rather than dumping them into residential neighborhoods left and right. I still believe it affects real estate value, people that are adjacent to that property.”

On May 9 the Planning and Zoning Commision passed a resolution recommending the ordinance be amended to prohibit standard marijuana cultivation facilities in residential zones.

In 2016, the issue came into play when Red Run Cannabis Company, Kenai’s first marijuana retail shop, opened their combined retail and cultivation space on a commercial lot adjacent to Thompson Park subdivision, along the Kenai Spur Highway. The Clarion reported in 2016 that residents of the subdivision were worried about their property values and crime.

Council member Molloy also noted at the Wednesday meeting that there were no issues of grandfathering, meaning no standard-sized marijuana cultivation facilities were issued a conditional use permit in a residential zone.

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