Jayson Jacoby
The Baker City Herald

Ordinance includes sunset clause for June 15, 2014, based on the Legislature's discussion about limiting cities' authority

By Pat Caldwell


A decision with statewide overtones arrived in an anticlimactic fashion Tuesday night when the Baker City Council passed a mandate to ban medical marijuana dispensaries.

The Council approved Ordinance No. 3330 - Prohibiting the Establishment of Marijuana Facilities/Dispensaries within City Limits - on its third reading and by a unanimous vote.

The ordinance - which will now go onto the city books - stipulates that any person, firm, organization or other entity that stands in violation of the mandate will face a fine up to $5,000. The ordinance will sunset on June 15, 2014.

The sunset clause will allow city officials to review a separate proposed, but related, business license ordinance. The clause will also allow city leaders to see what the Oregon Legislature decides to do with a bill that might allow cities and counties restrict, but not ban, medical marijuana dispensaries.

In 2013, the Oregon Legislature approved a law that allows businesses in the state to grow and sell medical marijuana to people who have a card allowing them to use the drug for medicinal purposes.

As of Jan. 1, 2014, 60,516 people had a medical marijuana card. That includes 207 Baker County residents.

Since Gov. Kitzhaber signed the medical marijuana dispensary bill into law last August, many city, county and state elected leaders complained that the law - and legal guidance from the Legislature regarding the edict - created a political vacuum. Since the law emerged, many cities and counties across Oregon have passed local mandates to halt attempts to open medical marijuana dispensaries in their jurisdictions.

Some contend cities and counties have the right to decide what is best for their communities while others assert the Legislature, by passing the law allowing dispensaries, has the final say in the matter.

With its decision Tuesday, the Baker City Council joined ranks with cities such as Tualatin and Beaverton that created temporary bans against dispensaries.

While the decision to OK the ban was pushed out onto the state stage Tuesday night, it was a uniquely local issue that consumed most of the meeting.

A public hearing regarding Ordinance No. 3329 - which levies tax assessments against properties that benefited from burying utilities along Resort Street last summer - devoured more than an hour of the meeting and showcased the testimony from three different local residents.

Randy Daugherty - a former city councilor and a current member of the city's budget committee - along with Rustin Smith and Tabor Clarke appeared before the council to voice concerns about the total assessments to be levied under the Resort Street Local Improvement District (LID).

Daugherty asked the Council to eliminate the LID completely, and his testimony sparked a lengthy discussion regarding questions about the cost of the project and how much property owners on the street should actually pay.

The LID money is a vital component of the overall project, intended to raise almost $295,000 of the total cost of $686,000. The city paid the remainder through its street fund.

When the LID was proposed in 2012, the owners of 12.73 percent of the property footage in the district objected.

Without money from property owners in the LID, the city would have to make up the deficit from elsewhere in its budget.

After the public meeting was closed, City Councilor Dennis Dorrah suggested that instead of passing the ordinance and going forward with the assessments, the citizen's committee that first helped review the project reconvene.

"Have them sit down with whomever they designate and get some real numbers and put it on the agenda," Dorrah suggested.

The council decided to table the proposal until the next regular session.

In other action Tuesday the council:

andbull; selected Paula Sawyer as the city's first animal control hearings officer

andbull; approved Ordinance No. 3332, creating a Public Arts Commission

andbull; listened to a update on the temporary UV water treatment system

andbull; approved a proposal to transfer money from the contingency fund to the Water Utility Construction Department to cover the costs of the work on the UV system and to permit the acquisition of grant funds from the Ford Foundation and the Oregon Department of Transportation.

andbull; appointed Bill Todd to the planning commission.