ST. PETERSBURG — Plans for what could be Pinellas County's first medical marijuana greenhouse moved closer to reality Wednesday, though hurdles remain.
The city's Development Review Commission unanimously approved a special exception to zoning rules to allow Gulf Coast Canna Meds to build the greenhouse subject to getting a state license.
"We're happy because this is one step closer to helping patients,'' said Oscar Mouton, a founder of the St. Petersburg company. "That's our motivation in this.''
Florida's Office of Medical Marijuana Use has yet to open the application process for the handful of new licenses expected to be issued this year. Applicants must have been in business at least five years, provide a $5 million surety bond and have enough cash flow to operate for two years. Gulf Coast's application would be submitted by Lodak Properties, started in 2005.
The meeting was a continuance of a June hearing at which commissioners asked for more detailed plans on security and odor reduction. On Wednesday, Brenden Markopoulos, agent for the applicants, said that a three-step- system would confine odors to the greenhouse site at 3201 39th Ave. N, across from a neighborhood of small houses.
But Mirela Setkic said her parents and others living nearby are skeptical.
"We're not convinced the smell will be eliminated,'' she said.
Setkic previously told commissioners residents also were concerned about crime and the impact on property values in what she said already is "one of the most disadvantaged neighborhoods'' in the city.
Commissioner Joseph Griner noted, however, that the 2.85-acre site is zoned industrial, a classification that permits a wide range of uses.
"Without any of these hearings,'' he said, "they could have a crematorium next door to their houses.''
The security plan includes surveillance cameras, an alarm system and guards armed in accordance with Florida laws. That appeased alternate commission member Freddy Cuevas.
"My concern with security was that there'd be a bunch of big old guys walking around with AR-15s,'' he said. "This will be just like my Publix with an armed guard at the front door. No problem at all.''
Supporting the greenhouse were more than 100 signers of a change.org petition.
"Florida has extensive regulations on growers and the fears about safety, odors and impact on property values are unfounded,'' wrote Dorothy Higgins, a signer. "The people need medical marijuana, and fighting this property after we've come so far is senseless.''
Contact Susan Taylor Martin at email@example.com or (727) 893-8642. Follow @susanskate