“I make a motion that we table this item until the State Regulations come out,” said new Councilman Brian Wursten.
That was how the final agenda item began Tuesday night as council began to contemplate what they wanted to do since the elections concluded and the legalization of recreational marijuana was passed in November.
“I think the comment would be the same now as it will be six months from now, and we need to take a stance on the issue,” said the council’s other newcomer, David Ballweg.
For the next half hour, each councilman offered their perspective and arguments, often split at times to determine how to proceed. According to City Liaison Officer Aaron Baker, there would be a meeting on the State’s Legislative Agenda on Jan. 25 and a statement would be helpful to send with Lobbyist Warren Hardy, who works in the legislature on behalf of the City of Mesquite.
“The city needs to have a list of wants and don’t wants, if you will, when bills start coming through. He (Hardy) needs some guidance before the session,” Baker said.
The task at hand is to determine how the city wants to handle the State of Nevada’s recent legalization. Do they want to regulate and control it, which would put thousands, if not millions, of dollars in their pocket, or do they want to “opt out” as Baker put it, and see the product continue as a black market type item in which there is no regulation and no monetary benefit to the city.
“You would be shooting yourselves in the foot,” said Mesquite resident Steve Clutterham. “It’s legal now, and you need the money. To not regulate, control and tax it would be a foolish mistake.”
Gary Elgort, another Mesquite resident, had pushed for the council to weigh on the side of ethics throughout the night, and didn’t let up on this item either.
“When we voted to allow medical marijuana we would not put recreational marijuana here without a vote from the public. Bring it to the public, put it out in the papers, of what the options are…” he said.
While 57 percent of Mesquite residents did vote against Prop 2, the state as a whole voted in favor of it. What happens now is up to individual cities, but legally, as of Jan. 1, recreational marijuana will be legal to those over the age of 21 with some restrictions.
“We know what it is, we don’t know what it isn’t,” said Councilman George Rapson. “I hate to go back on my promise earlier in the year, so I won’t, but we need to know more about this before making a decision.”
He continued in his comments, noting to the public that while they may not have wanted recreational marijuana here, it’s done and everyone needs to wrap their heads around that fact and decide what should be done in the best interest of the city. “It’s legal. We can’t change that. There is a lot of ancillary issues here including revenue and control. This is what it is. The fact that you voted no for it doesn’t matter anymore.”
A final motion was made by Wursten to table the agenda item until the Jan. 10 meeting and that more research and information needed to be brought forth with the hopes that the state will have some kind of structure in place to go on at that time. With a second by Rapson, who added the council will need to have some direction prepared for Hardy at that meeting, the motion passed by a vote of 4-1, with Ballweg being the lone nay vote.
“We need to have some kind of sentiment of the intent of this council,” Ballweg said. “To give up and say that Mesquite will do whatever the State will do is not okay. We need to be proactive and start trying to stand up for ourselves and make these decisions.”
The argument came just 20 minutes after the council resolved to amend the Mesquite Municipal Code regarding the location of a medical marijuana facility relative to other businesses and organizations. The item was initially brought forth to council in August and then tabled until October. Bill 502 was revised at that time to only include restrictions in respect to community facilities. Bill 507, another amendment brought Tuesday night, further stipulates that the city is not held liable for land owners who knowingly choose to locate their closer to existing medical marijuana establishments. This originally came about from a complaint filed by an existing property owner who is within 1,000 feet of Deep Roots Medical. According to City Attorney Bob Sweetin, all property owners were made aware of DRM going in prior to their closing on the property purchase. At that time, Sweetin also confirms there was a public hearing. Because there were no conflicts raised at that time, DRM continued their business setup and is operating today. Because of that timeline, theoretically the city is not at fault or in the position to be at fault by any potential lawsuit neighboring businesses might be tempted to pursue.
Earlier in the meeting, council and staff heard a presentation from Mike Spilker of HintonBurdick CPAS & Advisors and their findings from an audit of the 2015-2016 Fiscal Year that ended on June 30. While Spilker stated many of the city’s functions cost more than what they bring in, the ratios are not out of character for how a typical city runs and that improvements are being made and can be seen in these audits year after year. His findings also state there were no issues of non-compliance manners with the state.
Council also voted to allow Danville Services, which currently reside in the Mesquite Campus area, to move and occupy their empty building at 718 Hardy Way across the street from the City’s Maintenance Facility. It has been vacant for several years, according to Baker, and will bring in an additional $12,000 a year to the city’s revenue and creating property tax revenue. The new site, which is approximately 1,000 square feet larger than their current location will allow them to grow as well as have on-site bathrooms. “As it stands now, we have to go 50 – 75 yards to use a bathroom, and that can become problematic,” said Danville Director Rod Ross. Danville provides services for people with special needs ranging from severe autism to cerebral palsy.
In other business, council also approved an amendment to the city’s Burn Permit process, which allows the City of Mesquite to issue burn permits “without providing any recommendation to the Clark County Department of Air Quality regarding the approval of an Air Quality permit without first obtaining City Council Approval,” according to the agenda material. The amendment does not state that a person would not need to have a permit from CCDAQ, but instead puts that responsibility into the resident’s hands. Any fines, if incurred by CCDAQ, would be the responsibility of the resident. Essentially, this change makes the process shorter and less confusing for all involved.
Other agenda items that passed include Resolution 911 that puts the city in an agreement with the Las Vegas Clark County Library District for maintenance on existing LVCCLD property; approval for a new 89-lot subdivision in Sun City between Oxbow Bend and Hardy Way; a creation of a Community Education Advisory Board for the city; approval to host the 2017 Nevada League of Cities Conference in late September/early October; acceptance of an amended street index that added .25 miles to the city’s roads with the changes on Lower Flat Top Mesa as Exit 118 was implemented and taking on Commerce Circle earlier this year; approval to suspend the Virgin River Habitat Fee; and approving a half of a percent room tax at local hotels and motels, bringing the total room tax to 12.5 percent, whereas Mesquite only ever sees two percent of that back.
With the Dec. 20 regular meeting being cancelled, the next Mesquite City Council meeting will be held on Jan. 10, 2017 at 5 p.m., upstairs in Council Chambers at City Hall, 10 E. Mesquite Blvd.