Traffic Concerns Over Glendale Marijuana Dispensary

A hearing regarding a proposal for a medical marijuana dispensary for 1616 E. Glendale Ave. was rescheduled to April 5th. Neighbors who live in housing developments nearby turned out in large numbers to oppose the plan.

Mitchell Song of Mitchell Song 64 Alpha, LLC, filed requests for two zoning variances and used a permit for the site, which used to be an animal dermatology facility that was located east of the Chevron gas station.

Mr. Song owned the .2 acre property at 1616 E. Glendale Ave. for over 15 years (since April 2003) and is included in the partnership. Constructed in 1964, the building is 1,618 square feet.

Mr. Song along with his partners were planning to transform the building into a medical marijuana dispensary including a wellness center which would sell wellness and health items. A maximum 25% of all of the items sold would have THC, which is a psychoactive compound found in marijuana.

City zoning regulations require medical marijuana dispensaries to be 500 feet away from residential properties and 1,320 feet away from places of worship. Two variances are needed because there is a church and some homes closer than those distances.

Additionally, in order for this kind of facility to be placed in a C-2 zoning district, a use permit is required.

On December 14th, 2017, a hearing was held before the city’s Zoning Administrator. Ray Jacobs, the Zoning Adjustment Hearing officer, denied the requests. An appeal was filed by the applicants to the Board Adjustment, which had been scheduled for March 1st, but was rescheduled to the board’s agenda on April 5th.

Mitchell Song had been asked to provide a comment for this story, but he didn’t respond.

Residents who live in the adjacent neighborhoods have indicated that the location of the new building would create more traffic issues in an area that’s already accident-prone and very congested. The building is located to the east of the intersection of Glendale Ave. on the north side. Customers who travel east on Glendale Ave. will not be able to turn left into the property because the intersection’s southbound turn lane onto 16th street isn’t long enough. This will force drivers to turn on 17th street, which will increase traffic into the neighborhood and entice people to park and walk back down the street towards the dispensary.

Julie Karasek, a resident of the Monteil neighborhood which is east of the property, remembers a time in 2017 when accidents occurred for five days in a row on the 17th street and Glendale Ave. intersection. The thought of a dispensary nearby was of great concern to her.

Helen Houser has been a resident in Monteil since 2001 and has noticed that the traffic has become increasingly worse. More people are traveling on and off the SR-51 and go out and in out of both commercial corners, one of which houses a busy Sprouts grocery store.

Houser isn’t opposed to medical dispensaries because some of her neighbors are marijuana users themselves. What she is most concerned about are the traffic issues that this new site will create.

The minutes from the December 2017 Zoning Administrator hearing mention that Ray Jacobs, the hearing officer, was also troubled about the impacts the new dispensary would have on an intersection that was already busy.

According to the ruling issued by Jacobs, the use permit request would increase vehicular traffic in adjacent residential locations. The sales and revenue generated by the dispensary could increase peak activity which would exceed the size of the site. More vehicle traffic would be generated by the medical marijuana dispensary throughout the day than a typical office. Moreover, Jacobs believes the increase in traffic would have a negative impact on nearby neighbors.

A Chevron gas station which is located next door to the proposed site on the intersection’s northeast corner is one such neighbor. Joe Greenbank, the station’s manager, was worried that the customers of the new dispensary would use his property for parking since it provides an easier way in and out of the facility. His own customers would begin to experience some difficulty getting in and out of the service station as a result of this.

Jacobs recognized that the recent history of this neighborhood has shown time and again that finding a site for a medical marijuana dispensary has been more difficult than finding a site for an infusion or cultivation because they are both restricted primarily to industrial areas. His findings showed that there wasn’t any kind of hardship related to the site because it had a business operating there for over 16 years. The building could be used for many other purposes under C-2 zoning.

The Board of Adjustment considered Song’s appeal at their meeting during the April 5th meeting which took place in the City Council Chambers at 200 W. Jefferson St at Noon. Phoenix’s official city website, has the complete agenda. You can find it by selecting “Other Public Meeting Notices” which is located under City Business. The item number for the agenda is ZA-538-17.

During the meeting, the Board of Adjustment voted to overturn the December 2017 ruling that was issued by the Zoning Administrator and approved the use permit and the two variances. Opponents had the option to appeal this ruling to the Arizona Superior Court. The May issue of North Central News has more information about this new development.