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Marijuana dispensary near Summerlin nixed after neighborhood outcry

Updated February 5, 2020 - 9:44 pm

Both sides purported to have the most support but in the end, the opponents of a proposed marijuana dispensary near Summerlin claimed victory: The store is officially dead, at least for now.

Following two town halls, a contentious Planning Commission meeting and a bevy of calls and emails to Councilwoman Victoria Seaman, a plan to occupy a former pet hospital with a dispensary in Ward 2 was put to rest Wednesday.

The City Council unanimously denied the applicant, Nevada CRT, a special use permit needed to move forward on the northeast corner of Sahara Avenue and Fort Apache Road, with Seaman leading the charge.

“I want to make it clear that my position on this issue is not related to marijuana use in general. The voters have spoken on the issue and I respect that,” she said. “It is also not about keeping all the dispensaries out of Ward 2.”

Instead she underscored that Nevada CRT rejected her offer to help find the business a more fitting location to launch the district’s first dispensary than an area opponents described as too suburban and too close to places where children and families congregate.

“Once you lose your neighborhood, it’s gone forever,” said Ward 2 resident Fran Abbott.

Is the site suitable?

In two neighborhood meetings, residents rejected the store location by a 3-1 margin, Seaman said. Her staff has also kept tally of the constituent outreach to her office: The opposition overwhelmingly won. Nevada CRT pointed to other figures, such as mailed notices returned to the city by nearby residents, that demonstrated the location was much better received than not.

“This has somewhat become more of a debate about marijuana and less a debate about land use,” said Matt McClure, the general manager of Cultivate, which would have operated the store.

The planned 4,800-square-foot dispensary was given the green light from city planners and other staff, who found no conflict with rules requiring a 1,000-foot buffer between schools and 300 feet for other sensitive uses.

It would have become the first dispensary within city limits west of Decatur Boulevard. The majority of existing stores in the city are clustered in Ward 3, the urban district east of Interstate 15, according to city data.

Even as Seaman framed the debate over the proposed site as not about marijuana use, opponents often invoked its potential influence on young people and worries that the store would attract a bad element. Blake Quackenbush, a retired Metro Police Department lieutenant and former narcotics detective, sought to assuage those concerns in favor of the location.

“People are already going to Ward 2 to buy marijuana. That’s how crime occurs, that’s how shootings occur … when it’s done illegally,” he said. “Dispensaries are monitored; they have security. It’s done safely in a safe environment.”

Free to look elsewhere

Scot Rutledge, a consultant who represented Nevada CRT throughout the process, said the location was chosen because many of Cultivate’s customers live nearby and travel to its store in the unincorporated county on Spring Mountain Road and Valley View Boulevard.

And McClure said he was raising his own family in the vicinity and has been a resident in Ward 2 for over a decade.

“I have no intention of putting something into the community that poses risks to — pick any age or demographic in the community,” he said.

But ultimately Seaman said she found the consensus response to her office to be clear: The proposed store was not harmonious with the site.

While Nevada CRT may choose to immediately pursue another location, it may also reapply for the disputed site after the so-called cooling-off period expires in a year.

But any effort to revive occupying the former pet hospital is likely to be met with similar resistance. Earlier in Wednesday’s hearing, Rutledge said the business was amicable to delaying a vote in order to try to address more neighborhood apprehension.

Jennifer Bowler, the PTA president at Piggott Elementary School, suggested more time would do no one any good.

“There’s nothing that they’re going to say to change our minds,” she said.

Contact Shea Johnson at sjohnson@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0272. Follow @Shea_LVRJ on Twitter.

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