Medical Marijuana

Peter Valenzuela, a lobbyist for Genesis Group Public Affairs, withdraws Nature's Healing Center's application for a medical marijuana dispensary in Ahwatukee a zoning adjustment hearing at Phoenix City Hall on Thursday, March 14, 2013.

[David Jolkovski/AFN]

A zoning administrator for the city of Phoenix has denied a zoning variance for a medical marijuana dispensary to go into a location in Ahwatukee Foothills.

Peter Valenzuela, chief executive officer of the Genesis Group Public Affairs, who is representing the owners of Nature’s Healing Center, said they will be appealing the decision to the Board of Adjustment. If they are successful there, that decision will trump the zoning administrator’s decision. If they are unsuccessful, the case will be appealed to superior court.

It’s unknown when the case might go before the Board of Adjustment.

Nature’s Healing Center was attempting to get a variance to go into a location at 4902 E. Warner Road, which is within 1,320 feet of Child Time Day Care and within 250 feet of a residentially-zoned area.
Valenzuela said after an exhaustive search of commercial real estate in Ahwatukee Foothills the location at 48th Street and Warner Road was the best they could find.

Hearing Officer Teresa Hillner said in her decision that the two variances would not be granted for this site because there are no special circumstances that apply to that particular building.

“There is nothing physically unique about this site,” Hillner wrote. “In fact, the applicant had a commercial real estate broker look for other commercially-zoned properties within the Ahwatukee Community Health Analysis Area (CHAA). According to his testimony and supplied information, there are other sites within Ahwatukee that would not require this variance. The only hardship shown by the applicant is that other property owners are not willing to sign a lease.”

During the zoning hearing several Ahwatukee residents expressed concern about a dispensary going into Ahwatukee. Owner Mike Richards assured those present that he would apply all possible security measures to his dispensary to make the neighborhood feel comfortable.

Also during the hearing an attorney who represents other medical marijuana dispensaries, Craig O’Loughlin, said he feared a letter of approval from Maricopa County included in Richards’ application to the state had been falsified — since his clients had not been able to receive an approval from the county when they applied.

Richards was able to produce that letter from the county, which was signed on April 29, 2011 by Deputy Director Darren Gerald. A spokesperson from the state Department of Health Services said Richards would not have been granted a license for the Ahwatukee CHAA if his application was not complete.

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