A request to change the zoning to allow a medical marijuana cultivation and production facility near one of Pahrump's neighborhoods spurred a heated debate among officials and local residents last week.
During the last Pahrump Regional Planning Commission meeting, Scott Sibley, the manager of Nevada Natural Medicines, LLC requested a zone change from the neighborhood commercial zoning district to the commercial manufacturing zoning district on 4.29 acres located at 6041 S. Hafen Ranch Road in Pahrump.
"The purpose of this zone change is to allow for a future medical marijuana cultivation and production facility on a site," Nye County Principal Planner Steve Osborne said. "This is not a proposed dispensary, it's a cultivation and production (that) require a special use permit to be approved by the county board of commissioners."
The facility would be located near the Artesia and Cottonwoods neighborhoods, and 1.1 miles from Hafen Elementary School. Although some argued that the business could bring additional tax revenue to the county's coffers, a score of local residents said a growhouse is not going to benefit the area.
"Number one, with it being on Hafen Ranch Road, we already have a tremendous amount of traffic of cars and school buses going to the elementary school which is at the end of Hafen Ranch Road and Kellogg (Road)," Artesia resident Barb Jorgensen said. "I really don't feel that our neighborhood is the appropriate place for this (facility)."
Others said a growhouse could scare away prospective property buyers, as it would lower the value of the houses in nearby neighborhoods.
"I've been watching a lot of the activities going on there with our judicial systems, the number of crimes and other things that have been happening in this area," said another resident, Charles Hermann. "What we don't need in this area is a marijuana growhouse. … It's not something that is beneficial to our community. I'd like to stay in this community as long as I can, but I'm afraid the illegal activities will start right there at the road as close as it is to Hafen Ranch Road.
Dave Richards, the president of Pahrump-based CivilWise Services, Inc., who represented Sibley at the meeting, said the building would adhere to the same stringent requirements as any other medical marijuana facility and will be opaque from the view and fully contained.
"I think the benefits of medical marijuana have been argued and argued and displayed and presented many times," Richards said. "I think the benefits are well established. Then, on the other hand, I also believe that we will put a lot of time in making sure there's safeguards for security."
"So, I think that the concerns shouldn't just be placed on this one particular project since I think we have already been through all of that."
In July, Nye County officials approved expansion of Mike Floyd's Green Life Productions and granted a special permit to Sousan Chaichian that allows a medical marijuana cultivation and production facility in Tonopah. Last week, Nye County Commissioners approved a request for a special use permit to allow a medical marijuana establishment in general commercial zoning at 151 South Humahuaca St. in Pahrump.
Scott Sibley said he had an approved special use permit for a facility on Homestead Road that had been purchased by another applicant. The property on South Hafen Ranch Road is currently owned by the Bank of America and is valued at $97,812 according to the Nye County's website.
"We would make sure that it's compatible with a neighborhood and work with the neighbors to make sure that it's not just a fenced in facility that meets the state's requirements, but something that is compatible to the area," Sibley said.
Under requirements, there's no separation for residences from growhouses. However, the minimum distance from a school is 1,000 feet and from community facilities such as playground, church, or park is 300 feet. Hafen Elementary School is located 1.1 miles away from the proposed dispensary.
The debate culminated in denial of the request, as officials said the applicant hasn't addressed several issues associated with the property such as potential crime and some of the surrounding conditions.
A proposed cultivation and production facility also requires a special use permit that would have to be approved by county commissioners, as rezoning doesn't allow for a medical marijuana establishment, officials said.
Meanwhile, Artesia resident Virginia Hammond said a group of local residents plan to file a petition not to allow the facility in the area.
"We don't think it's a good idea to have a growhouse in a more or less home area," Hammond said.
The matter will be presented to the Nye County Board of Commissioners on Sept. 15 for a final action.