Following minor clashes, the Maricopa Planning and Zoning Commission on a 5-1 vote Tuesday forwarded to City Council updates of city zoning code and licensing requirements on marijuana facilities.

The zoning-code text amendment updates definitions of the types of marijuana facilities permitted in the city, clarifies location distances, and adds requirements for security plans and odor control. If approved by the council, these would mark the first major changes to the code on marijuana facilities since 2021, when an emergency provision prohibited all recreational-only facilities from operating in Maricopa.

Vice Chair Bill Robertson and Committee Chair Ted Yocum listen during a Planning and Zoning Commission meeting on March 28, 2023 at Maricopa City Hall. Monica D. Spencer/InMaricopa

That effectively required anyone wishing to open a recreational marijuana facility to obtain dual licenses to include a medical marijuana dispensary.

Debate emerged on the P&Z panel Tuesday regarding distances that qualifying marijuana facilities – recreational pot — may operate from a list of locations, particularly schools. P&Z Vice Chair Bill Robertson moved to recommend the distance from schools be 1,000 feet instead of 500 feet, making it similar to city code for liquor licenses.

“I’m concerned that 500 feet from schools is simply not enough,” Robertson said.

Commissioner Jim Irving, long an advocate for schools, surprisingly voiced opposition during the discussion.

“Parents and school officials apparently don’t feel there’s an issue,” Irving said regarding the 500-foot limit. “We had a public hearing and not one person came down here to speak. If there had been 10 people here asking us to make it 1,000 feet, I would have supported jumping in and making it more restrictive.”

Planning and Zoning Manager Rick Williams said the distances remain the same as in the existing ordinance.

“We didn’t change any of the distance requirements from the previous document,” Williams said. “We just created a table and put them in it so it’s much easier to read.”

City Planner Rick Williams explains some of the details to the zoning code text amendments for marijuana facilities during a Zoning and Planning Commission meeting at Maricopa City Hall on March 28, 2023. Monica D. Spencer/InMaricopa

During the discussion, Robertson’s motion of recommending 1,000 feet from schools died for lack of a second.

Another motion to approve the updated measure as written deadlocked at 3-3 and therefore did not carry, with Robertson, Chair Ted Yocum and Commissioner Jim Hughes opposed. Commission member Rachel Leffal was absent.

After more discussion, a second vote was taken to send the amendment to City Council as written. That motion carried, 5-1, with Robertson opposed.

As for next steps, Williams said the information and concerns discussed during the meeting will be summarized and presented at the next City Council meeting on April 4. Ultimately, the decision to approve or deny the amendment will fall into the hands of the City Council.

“It’s their decision,” Williams said.