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Heavy commercial properties OK'd for pot

Editor's note: This story was inadvertently cut off in Thursday's paper. It has been updated to reflect the City Council's decision Thursday night.

Owners of Eads Furniture and Appliance will be allowed to lease their warehouse space to cannabis growers after the Medford City Council on Thursday approved cultivation on properties zoned heavy commercial. 

Brett and Trina Helfrich of Eads Investments LLC wrote a letter to the council in December asking members to reconsider marijuana production restrictions in heavy commercial zones.

The council voted 4-1 to approve an ordinance lifting those restrictions, with Councilor Dick Gordon dissenting.

Current law allows marijuana production indoors in areas zoned industrial. Marijuana grows, either medical or recreational, are not allowed outdoors in residential areas.

Existing city rules would have allowed the Helfrichs to have marijuana-extraction facilities or marijuana laboratories inside the warehouses, but not the growing of actual plants. The warehouses are located to the north of WinCo shopping center but are tucked back and aren’t readily visible from Riverside Avenue. 

Eads is surrounded by cannabis-related businesses, including one that sells greenhouses and another that is a cannabis testing laboratory.

"With the ever-changing climate in the cannabis industry, we have several interested parties for production but are unable to accommodate the existing requests due to this restriction on production," the Helfrichs stated in their Dec. 7, 2016, letter.

Councilor Michael Zarosinski said he's wanted to limit marijuana grows in residential areas, so he said he's trying to be flexible about allowing it in other areas under more controlled situations.

"The Planning Commission was pretty split on the idea," he said.

Matt Brinkley, director of Medford planning, said he's only heard from the Helfrichs about growing indoors in heavy commercial areas of the cities.

"It's not like there is an overwhelming wave of interest," he said.

Dan Gilbert, co-owner of Kush Gardens in Medford and Shady Cove, has indicated interest in leasing Eads’ 12,000-square-foot warehouse off Riverside Avenue, but agreed he could wait to see whether the city changes its regulations. 

He previously said he’s unsure why every other type of cannabis operation is allowed in heavy commercial except cultivation. The city enacted the regulations in 2015.

Within Medford, 500 properties are zoned for heavy commercial, with many located to the west of Interstate 5 and a few clustered in the west and northeast.

Though the council approved marijuana production in heavy commercial areas, other regulations will come into play.

"They will need to mitigate any kind of offsite impacts such as odor," Brinkley said.

City planners looked at marijuana cultivation as an agricultural use. As a result, they decided to clean up code language to also allow agricultural uses in heavy commercial, as well as production of confectionary products.

— Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com. Follow him on www.twitter.com/reporterdm.