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Pima Supes to take up marijuana dispensaries; Marana to discuss impact fees update

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Pima Supes to take up marijuana dispensaries; Marana to discuss impact fees update

A quick look at what's planned for local government meetings

  • Pima County supervisors will decide on a proposed change to zoning rules to allow for marijuana dispensaries. The question is: Will the board allow public hearings/
    Gene Moreland/TucsonSentinel.comPima County supervisors will decide on a proposed change to zoning rules to allow for marijuana dispensaries. The question is: Will the board allow public hearings/

The Pima County Board of Supervisors will take up marijuana dispensaries and a tiny schism between the staff and the Planning and Zoning Commission could have some profound results.

It's the difference between a right and a privilege.

Let's go back. In 2020, voters approved the legalization of recreational marijuana in Arizona.

County zoning laws didn't allow for marijuana dispensaries. Business owners needed a "conditional use permit," which allows the business to operate as a "non-conforming use" in certain circumstances. 

What the staff wants now is to change zoning rules to allow marijuana dispensaries to operate alongside other businesses. These businesses would not need an additional permit.

What the Planning and Zoning Commission wants to do is to continue to force pot businesses to get a Type III conditional use permit. Those require more bureaucracy and two public hearings, adding thousands of dollars to the cost. Zoning provides the certainty of a right to operate. Conditional use permits require the discretion of the board after the public has a say.

Feasibly, those who oppose legalization could whip up enough neighborhood support to pressure the board to reject a required permit. 

However, every liquor license granted or transferred requires a hearing, too. The public isn't (often) screaming bloody murder about them. Also, any member of the public can speak on any issue before the board, so it's not like the people can be shut out of the process. 

Public hearings are advertised. 

It is curious that the staff doesn't want to require the extra step but the commission does. 

Guns and money

The Board of Supervisors agenda is a bit light this week, as the meeting is being held on the day of the primary election. Other governing bodies have moved their meetings to Wednesday to give people a clear shot at the vote.

Supervisor Rex Scott wants to release to the public the privileged correspondence he's had with the Pima County Attorney's Office about doing something with gun shows at the Pima County Fairgrounds.

He had received three memos from the county's legal team on the matter. Legal advice is supposed to remain secret until or unless the board votes to make it public.

Whether or not the board agrees to release the information, good luck trying to pass gun safety rules in Arizona.

This issue has long been what experts call "a thing." Federally licensed firearms dealers must conduct a background check on all gun sales. Private individual sellers do not. A smattering of private sellers can show up at gun shows like the ones at the fairgrounds, and fall into what's known as the "gun-show loophole."

The Arizona Legislature treats the gun like a sacred relic that can not be desecrated. Lawmakers in Phoenix even passed a law that withholds state sales tax money from any local government that destroys a gun.

No government can destroy a gun, the law says. That's ... weird.

So even if Scott finds something in the law that allows Pima County to do something about guns, there will be a vote at the Capitol complex to make that move illegal.

Short of Democrats wresting control of the Legislature from Republicans, local governments won't have options to control or restrict gun sales.

Also on the agenda for Tuesday, Pima County Administrator Jan Lesher will ask supervisors to include trainees in the Sheriff's Department in the new salary plan. 

They weren't included in the one approved for Fiscal Year 2022-23. The cost would run the county $325,000.

Supervisor Steve Christy, the board's lone Republican, is asking for further explanation of a July 21 memo from Lesher to the board explaining recent changes to the federal rental assistance program.

What had been a partnership between the city of Tucson and Pima County is now solely run through the county's Workforce Development Department.

The changed happened in May and has since either approved or distributed $5.9 million in assistance to more than 1,000 families.

When the coronavirus relief money runs out, the distributions are expected to shrink back to $10 million a year.

Back to the Planning and Zoning Commission, Bruce Gungle is about to be appointed to his 1,000,023rd term as a P&Z commissioner.

He was already on the board when I started covering county government in January 1998. He was first nominated by Raul Grijalva or Juan Bautista De Anaza. I'll have to get back to y'all on that. After a 13-year stint, the University of Arizona hydrologist did take a few years respite before being reappointed in 2016  

So, OK. He hasn't served for 4 million years — just 20.

He has been nominated by that former Grijalva, then Richard Elias and now Supervisor Adelita Grijalva.

The county will also vote to approve 35 contracts to various vendors to provide services for the county. The board just approved a new budget. Now the money is going out for the new fiscal year.

One of the more interesting parts is how the county is passing along CDC funding to 13 local agencies and nonprofits for services ranging from youth health outreach via the Muslim Alliance of Tucson to $57,570 for the Arts Foundation for Tucson and Southern Arizona for immunizations.

Impact manufactured

The Marana Town Council will hold a public hearing Wednesday, taking a step toward revising impact fees.

Impact fees are like developer's anteing into Marana's coffers at the start of their project to pay for the increased demands on roads, parks, water and waste water. 

It's how communities protect existing residents from the cost of growth incurred by the draw of new projects.

The town has done some preliminary planning with the Pima Association of Governments on revisions of impact fees.

Under state law, the town hold must hold a public hearing to discuss the assumptions required to plan for impact fees. How much new housing, commercial space and industrial development will be coming to the area. 

This is one of those provisions in state law that seems like it's providing a real opportunity for public input. Think about it, though. What assumptions can the public intelligently make about what kind of development will be added on which spot in Marana? 

I guess, we'll see.

The town council will also vote on a proposal to exempt the sale of manufactured buildings from a 1/2-cent sales tax approved in Oct. 2021.

Construction, telecommunications, utilities, hotels and mines were exempt under the sales tax hike to help pay for an aquatics center in the town.

An alternate plan would have limited the tax liability on sales over $5,000 but apparently manufactured buildings do not meet the definition of  "tangible personal property." 

Nogales and Santa Cruz County have the extra day to get their agenda material up and comply with the open meeting law. They are taking advantage of it. We can't tell what's going on there, yet.

Blake Morlock is an award-winning columnist, who worked in daily journalism for nearly 20 years and is the former communications director for the Pima County Democratic Party.

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