Commission reverses decision to limit medical marijuana dispensaries
The city’s plan to control medical marijuana dispensing through zoning of where pharmacies can locate has gone up in smoke.
In a reversal of an earlier plan to extend its moratorium on permitting medical marijuana dispensaries until Nov. 30, city commissioners decided not to prohibit medical cannabis dispensing at all, anywhere in the city.
During their regular commission meeting June 21, commissioners decided they were tired of spinning their wheels when the city always wanted to permit marijuana dispensaries in the first place.
Several weeks ago, just when the city was preparing to amend its ordinance to permit marijuana dispensaries in certain zoning districts, the state Legislature adopted regulations requiring municipalities to treat medical marijuana dispensaries no differently than pharmacies. City Planning and Development Director Greg Rice said the change requires the city to permit medical marijuana dispensing anywhere a pharmacy could operate.
Rice reminded commissioners that the state mandate did two things.
"It opened the door to unlimited medical marijuana dispensaries in every Dunedin commercial zoning district (and) created a long-term concern of the possible proliferation of marijuana shops in the downtown core should Florida approve recreational marijuana in the future."
Commissioners noted they faced a quandary. They wanted to defend the idea of home rule and not having the state dictate their zoning codes, while noting Florida’s medical marijuana law was approved by 71 percent of voters, with local residents overwhelmingly supporting it.
Two weeks ago, commissioners decided to extend a moratorium on whether to permit medical marijuana to be dispensed until Nov. 30. This would give city staff time to adopt an ordinance regulating where pharmacies could be located, which would essentially regulate where medical marijuana dispensaries could be established.
Commissioners approved a suggestion by Mayor Julie Ward Bujalski to protect the downtown and Dunedin Causeway by adopting a local ordinance that would ban pharmacies from the city’s popular tourist district and beach area. There are currently no pharmacies in those areas and none are planned, she noted.
The mayor said she has always supported permitting medical marijuana, but she is just trying to protect the downtown tourist area until a time when cannabis can be regulated like alcohol, if and when it becomes legal.
However, at the June 21 meeting, she said she is tired of waiting for the state to take action.
"I don’t want to kick the can down the road anymore. I’m ready to move on," she said.
Bujalski said she is now willing to just let the marketplace take care of itself.
Commissioners voted 4-1 not to extend the moratorium, effectively permitting dispensaries anywhere in the city that a pharmacy could locate. Commissioner Maureen Freaney cast the dissenting vote, saying she wanted the city to be cautious about permitting it downtown.
Financial services firm celebrates downtown move
Steward Partners Global Advisory, an independent partnership associated with Raymond James Financial Services, has officially marked its arrival in downtown Clearwater.
The branch of now 14 partners moved into One Clearwater Tower in early 2017 but cut the ribbon on sweeping renovations and permanent upgrades to the 10th and 11th floors last week.
"We want to be in downtown Clearwater," said senior vice president Frank Hibbard. "We had choices. We could have been in Belleair, Belleair Bluffs, more central Clearwater. But our clients … they want to come here."
Clearwater is one of 15 Steward offices nationwide. The firm focuses on family, institutional and multi-generational wealth management and has an estimated $10 billion in client assets, according to divisional president Chris Barton.
Golf club gets OK for expansion
A recent series of town commission actions has cleared the way for the Pelican Golf Club to proceed with its expansion plans.
The proposal includes 1.13 acres of existing residential property adjacent to the golf course along Althea Road and Golf View Drive, which was recently acquired by the developer. To connect the parcels to the existing golf course, developers asked that the commission vacate that portion of the right of way abutting the parcels.
Plans also call for enhanced practice greens, a 2,754-square-foot Golf Learning Center and the addition of two 3,800-square-foot cottages for overnight stays by club members.
Commissioners gave final approval to two ordinances to accommodate the golf club’s request. They also approved two variance requests.
One is to allow the applicants to build a 3,300 square-foot metal maintenance facility at the northeast corner of the golf course. The other will allow a fence and wall combination on the perimeter of the golf club’s new parcel.
A cul-de-sac is proposed by the developers for Golf View Drive as a part of the request to vacate right of way, and it is expected to solve some traffic concerns.
During two commission meetings on the project in June, there were no objections from the public.
The Doyle family of Belleair bought the property from the town for $3.8 million; the deal closed in June 2017. Company officials plan for the golf course to be in use beginning in January.
>Compiled by Staff Writer Tracey McManus and Tom Germond and Mark Schantz of Tampa Bay Newspapers.>