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Cape Council mixed on medical pot moratorium

By Staff | May 23, 2017

Amendment 2 legalized medical marijuana in the state of Florida effective Jan. 1 but the state has yet to formulate the rules and regulations that will implement that voter mandate.

This has been problematic to local municipalities such as Cape Coral and Monday, during its monthly workshop meeting, City Council discussed staff’s recommendation to have a moratorium on dispensaries.

Reaction was mixed, with some on the elected board wanting a moratorium and others wanting to hammer out the framework now and make any adjustments once the rules – either approved by the state legislature should a special session be called, or by the state Department of Health should no late bill come forward – are passed.

Robert Peterson said since the state legislature failed to reach consensus on an implementation bill, some cities continue to wait since they don’t want to do anything that state i won’t like.

Much of the discussion concerned where to put the dispensaries and how to zone them. There was consensus that they should be away from schools, churches and bars.

Cape Coral Police Chief David Newlan said there are public safety issues such as loitering, traffic, criminal activity and the impact it would have on pedestrians and businesses.

Community Development Director Vince Cautero said two dozen counties and more than 40 municipalities have moratoriums in place.

“If we do one thing and the state does the other, we don’t want something that is outdated the moment we get it,” Cautero cautioned.

Councilmember Rick Williams said he hated all this red tape and that the city’s hands are tied because of state inaction.

Coucilmember Richard Leon said the city should start on the framework now so that once the state acts, city regulations can be in place. He also added he’s frustrated with the pace of this.

“If we’re not ready, that’s a failure on our part. We saw this coming two years ago and local governments are failing on this,” Leon said. “We can be ahead of the game. Our staff is smart enough to draft something for this. I’m against a moratorium.”

Council members Jim Burch and John Carioscia recommended caution, making sure this is done right the first time to avoid potential heartburn later.

“Let’s take a breather and not be the first at anything. Being first to be popular is one thing. Being first to be illegal is another,” Burch said.

“I have no problem with medical marijuana, this is about the process and making it right. We should use caution,” Carioscia said.

In other business, the council also got an update on the five-year city repaving plan. Some changes have been made to the priorities of some streets.

Roads off Palaco Grande Parkway were moved from 2019 to 2018 because the city’s utility department expects to complete the galvanized pipe replacement project.

Also, roads between Pelican Boulevard and Lotus Canal between Gleason Parkway and Southwest 47th Terrace were moved to this budget cycle to unify the age of all paving within the area.

Roads on the west side of Del Prado from Southeast 17th Street to Souheast 22th Street were moved from 2020 to 2022 because the city needs to replace waterlines in the area.

The road-paving plan, which was instituted in 2012 as a way to catch up on road work following the recession.

Mayor Marni Sawicki and council members Jessica Cosden and Marilyn Stout had excused absences and we not at the meeting.