A capacity crowd squeezed into the council chambers for the Hines Common Council meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 9. Most were voicing concerns about the proposed water rate increases and Ordinance 317, which amends sections of Ordinance 295 regarding marijuana business permits and time and manner restrictions for marijuana businesses.
Hines resident Roger Glerup asked the council whether it could hold off on implementing the increase in the water rates and set up a meeting to gather public input. Glerup also asked the council to consider fixing the water tower, rather than replacing it, which would save the city “several million dollars.”
Hines Mayor Nikki Morgan explained that the schedule for the water rate increases was set up, but the amounts of the increases weren’t, as the city is still working on funding for the water system improvements.
Tom Choate of Hines said the city could save a lot of money by looking at all the options for the water system. He said the 20-year plan put forth by the engineer is only a suggestion, and the council doesn’t have to follow it exactly.
“If you get a loan for 7.3 million dollars, there’s nobody that can bid in this community on any of those jobs,” Choate said. “I think you guys can go about this, and save a lot of money, by looking at all your options and not just taking the first one on the table.”
Councilor Diane Rapaport asked Glerup and Choate whether they’ve read the water master plan. When they said they hadn’t, she suggested they read it for more clarification.
Later in the meeting, the council passed Resolution 2235, which repeals Resolution 2205 and all preceding resolutions or ordinances pertaining to the setting of water meter rates and volume charges, and authorizing collection of such funds.
During the previous meeting, the council approved amending sections of Ordinance 295 so that all instances of “1,000 feet” within Section H of the ordinance be changed to read “2,000 feet” in regards to marijuana business buffer zones.
Thomas Wenke told the council that he visited the area last May to look at purchasing property to be used for a marijuana growing operation. He then purchased property along Highway 20, which was outside the buffer zone at that time. However, with the amendment, his property is inside the buffer zone, meaning it can’t be used for a marijuana grow.
Wenke said he didn’t file paperwork with the state for the operation because he was waiting until the new year, adding that he told city officials of his plans.
He stated that he had the paperwork ready to be filed, but then he received a call from the owner of the property telling him the city was changing the zoning.
“So, I didn’t get any notice. I didn’t get anything,” Wenke said. “Now, I bought property here at a cannabis location price, for X-amount of dollars, without it being available for cannabis growing. It really is half of that. Now I’m stuck with property I really can’t do anything with unless they reduce the buffer. It’s not valuable to me, and it’s not valuable to the next person at that price as a cannabis operation.”
Reading a prepared statement, Hilda Allison, a Hines resident and business owner, said, “I’m letting our community know Johnson & Johnson, a pharmaceutical company, developing a marijuana derivative to help children with seizures, is considering placing a facility right here in Hines.
“3M has also contacted wanting to place a testing laboratory here in Hines to test the effects of marijuana on specific brain tumors.
“But I’m afraid we’ll have to let them know that, under Ordinance 317, that they’re going to be reading this evening, they won’t be considered.”
Allison said she read an article in the Dec. 27, 2017, issue of the Burns Times-Herald regarding Ordinance 317 and “found one item on this ordinance to be of great concern.”
She explained that she was concerned by the portion of the ordinance, which states that marijuana-related businesses cannot be built within 2,000 feet of residential zones or other marijuana-related businesses.
“Passing Ordinance 317, the way it’s currently worded, removes the word ‘industry’ from our industrial park,” Allison said. “It limits what can go into the park. I find that this council has not taken into consideration, that with time and technology, there are many industries that are marijuana-related.
“I find the council has not taken into consideration that the 2,000-foot rule ruins the entire industrial park, the whole park, from being considered.”
Allison added that, with the passing of the ordinance, technology will not be allowed to bloom in our area, and said it’s not in the best interest of the city to disqualify any businesses on the basis of being marijuana-related.
She then asked the council to remove Ordinance 317 from the books.
Chris Boyce told the council that his business was looking at purchasing more property to expand the marijuana grow, but the expanded buffer zone “wrecked that plan.”
Hines resident Dan Winn told the council that 95 communities have already banned marijuana for “probably a good reason.” He noted that there are already three dispensaries, either operating or in the process of setting up, as well as two marijuana grows in a town of 1,500 people.
“It’s creating revenue, correct, and there are other options for that,” Winn said. “There’s lots of ways to get revenue and create jobs. My point is, do we want to be known as the community of marijuana and everything that goes along with it? You can’t deny there are negative impacts to people and the community because of marijuana.”
Those in attendance, on both sides of the issue, continued the discussion for about another 40 minutes.
During the councilor comment portion of the meeting, Councilor John Mims suggested the council take another look at the ordinance parameters with the goal being to exclude the industrial park.
Harney County veterans Service Officer Guy McKay discussed the designation of U.S. Highway 20 as a Medal of Honor Highway. McKay said one sign was already put up near Riley, and a second sign will be going up near Burns. He said he’s trying to let the community know about the event, so they can attend once the date is set.
McKay also introduced his new assistant (Tim Mosher), spoke about the amount of money veterans claims bring into the county, and stated that the Harney County Senior and Community Services Center is currently accepting applications for the low-income energy assistance program.
In other business, the council:
• approved a $50 donation to the Burns Elks Lodge for a new sound system; and
• appointed Marsallai Quick to the Hines Planning Commission.
The next council meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 23, at city hall.