By Joyce Coronel
Proposed expansion of medical marijuana cultivation and a school for adults with cognitive disabilities are among topics likely to stir public opinion when the City of Tempe’s Development Review Commission meets April 28. Public comment is invited through 5 p.m. April 27.
The first item involves a request for a code text amendment to the city’s medical marijuana amendment. The second is a request for a use permit to allow an instructional school near Rural and Knox Roads for individuals with cognitive disabilities.
Medical Marijuana Cultivation: Hana Meds, which operates medical marijuana dispensaries in Kingman and Green Valley, Arizona, is seeking to eliminate the current maximum 25,000 square-foot size restriction for medical marijuana cultivation facilities in Tempe.
A city of Tempe April 21 staff report recommends the Development Review Commission approve the application.
A letter from Zoned Properties to the DRC states the change will have the effect of “aligning the City of Tempe with both the State regulations and also peer municipalities across the valley.”
The letter also cites comments made in December 2019 by DRC Vice Chair Michael DiDomenico regarding “the benefits of amending the local code to bring more regulated marijuana business to Tempe, specifically discussing the hindrance that the existing 25,000 square foot size restriction on cultivation sites could have on economic growth.”
Arizona’s medical marijuana program began in 2010 and marijuana dispensaries opened around the state thereafter. Today there are more than 100 Arizona dispensaries, including some in Tempe.
In 2015, Tempe changed the age limitation for entrance to a dispensary from 21 to 18, matching state law.
Wrangler News reached out to Hana Med for comment on its request to eliminate the 25,000-square-foot limit (a little over half an acre) but did not receive a response. Karen Stovall, senior planner with the City of Tempe’s development department, said the city “does not maintain a list of the location of cultivation facilities” and “does not monitor product production.”
On a related note, in 2017, the Tempe City Council voted 4-2 to lift the limit of two medical marijuana dispensaries in the city. ASU President Michael Crow and Tempe Coalition wrote letters opposing the move.
Arizona voters may have the opportunity to vote on legalizing adult recreational marijuana in the upcoming November election. A similar measure, Proposition 205, was narrowly defeated in 2016.
Hilary Cummings, director of Tempe Coalition, a local organization that seeks to decrease risky youth behavior, noted that the coalition’s aim is to keep marijuana out of the hands of young people. She cited the 2018 Arizona Youth Survey which she said revealed 75 percent of Tempe youth see little or no harm to using marijuana. “That’s a huge problem—we’ve got to change that.”
To comment, contact Karen Stovall, project planner, at Karen_Stovall@Tempe.gov or (480) 350-8432.
Transitions Tally Ho Farms: The applicant, Ramirez Architects, is seeking to relocate and consolidate a school to the southern tip of the Tally Ho Farms South subdivision at 850 E. Knox Road, kitty corner from Corona del Sol High School. The owner of the property, Dennis Karp, is the operator of Transitions, a state-licensed agency that provides instructional and caregiving services to cognitively disabled individuals with disorders such as autism, cognitive disabilities, epileptic seizures, and cerebral palsy.
Transition’s clientele consists of individuals who have graduated high school special education but do not have the necessary skills to be employed at a job full-time. The school offers students a place to learn social, emotional, and daily living skills while interacting with their peers to learn about and participate in their community.
Transitions seeks to operate within the existing 3,610 square-foot single-family residence and its van fleet will be parked in the 3,350 square-foot detached garage. A separate surface parking area for employees and visitors is proposed behind the garage, adjacent to the required street side yard.
The city of Tempe received 41 comments and 11 letters in support of the request for use permit and 25 comments in opposition to the proposed use.
Debbie Keller, a Tally Ho Farms South Neighborhood Association leader who has lived in the area for 40 years, voiced her opposition to Transitions in a letter to Lee Jimenez of Tempe’s Development Review Commission.
“Over the years we have had to face everything from people buying lots in our subdivision to build apartments to commercial prospects,” Keller wrote. “We have several large lots up for grabs and my concern is allowing this to happen would open the door for other problems down the road.”
Several parents of adult children with disabilities expressed their support of the Transitions program and its effort to consolidate its two Tempe facilities (one near Kiwanis Park and the other near McClintock and Elliot) into one location on Knox Road.
Rosanne Sabo, mother of Suzie, a woman with Down syndrome, said Transitions provides a “safe, caring, local program” and is helping her daughter grow in independence. “By having Suzie attend during the day, I am able to work full time knowing my child is in an enriching environment instead of just being watched somewhere,” Sabo wrote to Jimenez.
A document provided to Wrangler News by the city of Tempe staff concluded the following prior to the April 28 DRC meeting: “Based on the information provided by the applicant, the public input received, and … analysis, staff does not support approval of the requested Use Permit. The request does not meet the required criteria.”
To comment, contact Lee Jimenez, project planner, at Lee_Jimenez@Tempe.gov or (480) 350-8486.
Watch the hearing broadcast live on Tempe 11; or watch it live-streamed at https://www.tempe.gov/tempe11. Public comments may be submitted to the assigned Project Planner by email or phone no later than 5:00 p.m. on Monday, April 27.