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Talent council will hold off on pot-growing ordinance

Talent City Council took a wait-and-see approach on how recreational marijuana grows may affect neighbors when they met Wednesday, the first day marijuana cultivation became legal.

A proposed ordinance prepared by staff that would have limited grows to indoors did not get a motion for approval from any of four members present. The group did agree to discuss the situation despite the lack of a motion.

Two-thirds of Talent voters approved Measure 91, which made possession and growing legal, Councilwoman Thereas Cooke said. To enact the ordinance would be a disservice to voters, she said.

“To make it unreasonably restrictive basically makes it prohibitive,” said Councilman Ryan Pederson. “(The ordinance) is too cumbersome to me to feel like it could be followed reasonably. People have this right.”

The impacts of marijuana growing could be better assessed when there is some history, said Councilman E.J. McManus. Councilman Anthony Abshire said an ordinance could be fine-tuned at a later date.

Oregon law restricts pot growers to four plants per household for recreational use. A total of six plants can be grown for each medical marijuana card holder. Rogue Valley cities have varied on how to handle the grows. Central Point restricts grows to indoors, but Jacksonville opted to deal with them using existing nuisance ordinances. Medford City Council has approved the first reading of an ordinance that allows outdoor grows.

Talent councilors directed city staff to come back with suggestions in October on how to handle grows based on experience gained during the first legal growing season.

Two residents urged the council during a public hearing to allow outdoor grows.

“These are not going to be big operations,” said Emily Berlant. “It’s just going to be a plant growing in a garden.”

Greater energy use, increased water consumption and more waste would result from requirements for indoor grows, Berlant said.

“Let people grow their four plants outside and see if there are any complaints,” said Eric Heesacker. Startup and ongoing costs of indoor grows might make it prohibitive for some people, he said.

The Community Development Department, which handles nuisance complaints, fielded 10 to 15 verbal complaints in 2014 about marijuana odor that centered on three properties, said Director Zac Moody. Residents are reluctant to file written complaints, he noted.

One of the grows had 16 plants in a high-density neighborhood, Moody said. Another had 12 plants. Mayor Darby Stricker said a large grow in her neighborhood has caused concerns.

“The odor is hard to take in September when you want to have the windows open in the morning,” said Stricker. Of greater worry are security issues surrounding the grow sites, she said.

Requirements under state law that grows not be visible are troubling, because there is no direction on how to achieve that, said Stricker. Greenhouses made of translucent fiberglass might be one option for consideration if growing were restricted to indoors, she said.

The council tabled until July 15 any discussion of revisions to the current nuisance ordinance.

In other business, Christina Collins was selected to fill a council vacancy created by the resignation of Joan Dean. Collins' appointment will expire Dec. 31, 2016.

Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at tboomwriter@gmail.com.