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New pot shop in Gold Beach makes 11 in Curry County


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Gold Beach will soon get its first marijuana dispensary, bringing to 11 the number of marijuana retail outlets in Curry County.

After hours of discussion, the city council Monday night unanimously voted to approve Damon Sours’ request to open La Mota — and a “grow and show” exhibit — in a building next to the Crow’s Nest Tavern at the north end of town.

The planning commissioner had only three commissioners available for the last meeting at which the request was to be discussed, and one had a conflict of interest. They decided to refer the decision to the city council.

In a separate request, the council denied on a 3-2 vote, an appeal of a planning commission decision for a conditional use permit for Zach Fairley’s Releaf Gold Beach dispensary two doors down, citing a lack of parking in the general area.

The owner of the building he hoped to occupy has no parking on the property, but both landowners — Crow’s Nest tavern and the retail space Sours wants — have adequate parking. Parking is addressed when there is a change of use in a building.

“The space (for La Mota) used to be a restaurant, and this use (dispensary) actually reduces the parking (requirement),” said Councilor Tami Kaufman. We’re just trying to stay consistent.”

Parking and pot

Gold Beach voters approved the sale of marijuana by a 73 percent margin in 2014, said City Administrator Jodi Fritts. And the council has had marijuana issues on its agenda 15 times since then — and during one in which a heckler called the council “jihadists” for trying to regulate marijuana operations.

In addition to parking, other concerns surrounding both proposals included that the shops are adjacent to a church and a pocket park on the corner of Moore Street and Ellensburg Avenue, and that crime would increase and property values fall.

Fairley told the council that a garage in the building could accommodate four vehicles, that few customers are in dispensaries at one time and they don’t stay long.

In general, Gold Beach requires one parking space for every 300 square feet of retail operations in which the public is allowed. Restaurant uses require one spot for every 100 square feet.

Fritts noted that the council has set some precedent in that it has allowed businesses that typically generate a lot of traffic to occupy the location.

“We have been lenient at times,” she said. “This is a retail business. I look at it like the liquor store. You go into a liquor store and buy a bottle of Smirnoff and you’re on your way. You know what you want when you go in.”

Councilor Melinda McVey said she felt there is no parking problem in the city, and she doubts a dispensary would attract enough vehicles to create a problem.

Paula Newell, the owner of the bar next door, disagreed, noting that she owns all the parking behind the buildings and would not allow dispensary customers to use it. As it is, she said, she has to keep an eye on people drinking in the bar as well as those gambling on video machines.

Fairley, who did not know La Mota was applying for an application two doors down when he submitted his, said there are other locations in town he could pursue.

The image of town

The pastor of the Foursquare church nearby said he believes having three marijuana dispensaries — including Club Sockeye in Wedderburn — and a liquor store at the entrance to town sends the wrong message to tourists.

“It attracts addictive people,” he said. “There will be fights, swearing, prostitution and damage to the park.”

Citizen Laurie Van Zandt, who works on the city’s Main Street Beautification project, agreed.

Mayor Karl Popoff warned those in the audience who wanted to comment not to discuss the merits of marijuana, particularly as voters approved the legalization of it.

“I’m not a marijuana fan, it’s just one more thing people can get into trouble with,” said Popoff, who spent 15 years as the chaplain at the jail. “I have never seen a one — not a one — who didn’t start with marijuana and go into the harder stuff. I don’t want to be known as the little marijuana capital of the world. But the people voted to make it legal in Oregon, so I’m duty-bound to follow that mandate.”

Some citizens said they were worried about property values, but Fairley and Sours both said that isn’t the case — particularly for businesses within a block of such operations.

Others brought up the proposed hours of operation, which under Oregon law can go as late as 10 p.m. Most retailers open later — or close earlier — depending on demand, Sours said.

Laura Lee Snook, a Gold Beach resident and former development director of Brookings, said many dispensaries come into dilapidated sections of town and end up improving them.

I met with (Brookings) police chief, and he’s never had any problems with those businesses,” she said. “I’ve never observed any problems with those businesses. I urge you to reconsider.”

Curry County’s retail marijuana shops

Brookings: Bud Brothers, West Coast Organics, Top Shelf Cannabis, Tryke and South Coast Dispensary (temporarily closed.) Another application is pending.

Harbor/south county: High Tide Wellness Center, Bud Mart, Stateline.

Gold Beach: La Mota and (proposed) Gold Beach Marijuana/Releaf Gold Beach.

Wedderburn: Club Sockeye.

Port Orford: Buddha’s Wellness Center.

Closed: Banana Belt Safe Access, Harbor.