Supervisors discuss zoning, other issues related to marijuana dispensaries, sign Watershed Protection funding request

by Joe Moses

The Allamakee County Board of Supervisors met in regular session Monday, May 6 to address a full agenda of items including discussion relating to marijuana dispensary zoning, review of manure management plan updates and consideration of a letter to the USDA requesting Federal assistance for Emergency Watershed Protection funding for flood damage for Secondary Roads.

During Public Comment, Dan Bechtel with Rainbow Quarry discussed that competition with multiple area quarries has resulted in lower prices for the County and that supporting area quarries remains important as costs are likely to rise without competition. Bechtel advised that there may be insurance and liability concerns at competing quarries where County employees are left responsible for loading rock and opening and closing gates. Board Chairperson Larry Schellhammer thanked Bechtel for his input and told him that the County appreciated his interest and involvement in the bidding process.

Prevention Specialist Jen Kimber with Helping Services for Youth and Families discussed the next agenda item involving marijuana dispensary zoning. Kimber discussed ongoing work through a grant from the Integrative Provider Network involving substance abuse prevention. She provided background information about the Medical Cannabidiol Act in Iowa, which is legislation that removed the three-percent THC cap on these types of products.

Kimber indicated that dispensaries opened elsewhere in the state late last year are allowed under state law with Waterloo being the closest location to this area, geographically. Kimber indicated that this agenda item was requested as a way to begin the conversation about zoning options and whether or not the County wishes to allow dispensaries, with concerns raised elsewhere that dispensary locations result in increased crime rates in their communities and increased access for youth to obtain these products.

Kimber advised that there are now ten medical conditions under state law recognized for medical cannabidiol treatment with the most recent addition of autism. Kimber described the process of applying for a medical cannabidiol registration card requiring a doctor to fill out a form verifying that the applicant has a qualifying condition, with that form being mailed to the State of Iowa, which then issues the registration card required to make purchases at dispensaries. The Supervisors and Kimber discussed Garner in Hancock County and that community’s ordinance regulating the sale of cannabidiol products, with these products remaining a Schedule 1 Federally illegal substance.

Allamakee County Zoning Administrator Tom Blake advised that from a zoning standpoint, dispensaries would be considered a retail business requiring a commercial or industrial zoning. Kimber discussed that cannabidiol does provide some medical benefits but concerns remain regarding regulation, THC levels and the minimal training required of dispensary workers that provide dosage recommendations for adults and children.

The plat request from Mary Kruse-Emerson was reviewed and approved by the Supervisors. The tax abatement request ($6) from Bernhard was also reviewed and approved. Manure Management Plan updates for Cyclone #1 and EB Ag LP were accepted and placed on file.

Allamakee County Engineer Brian Ridenour discussed the next agenda item relating to the consideration of a letter to the United State Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) requesting Federal assistance for Emergency Watershed Protection funding for flood damage for Secondary Roads. Ridenour indicated that the funding would only be used for damage caused by the March 2019 flooding event for various projects protecting roadway embankments or other flood-related damage. Ridenour indicated that 75% of the funding would be Federal with the remaining 25% being local and that several potential projects have been identified at Yellow River, Paint Creek, Village Creek and the Upper Iowa River. Ridenour presented a draft of the letter, with the Supervisors approving to sign the letter.

Under Department Head Updates, Ridenour discussed ongoing weather-related gravel road maintenance with two slides taking place last week, one near the Driftless Area Education and Visitor Center in Lansing and another near Waukon Junction. Ridenour indicated that work on the A26 bridge replacement continues with a mid-to-late July completion date likely. Ridenour also discussed the potential removal of embargoes on secondary roads.

Allamakee County Auditor Denise Beyer discussed a recent update from the Iowa State Association of County Auditors (ISACA) relating to the Commercial and Industrial Property Tax Backfill which has been fully funded for Fiscal-Year 2020, replacing lost revenue due to legislatively imposed rollbacks.

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