Monday, May 21, 2012

Why I Support the Dispensary

As many are already aware, the city of Phoenix is currently considering a controversial proposal for a medical marijuana dispensary to be located at the SW corner of 35th Avenue and Southern Avenue. In order to make this happen, the business owners must not only obtain a special use permit, but must also obtain a "variance" due to proximity to residentially zoned property and a daycare business in a nearby shopping center. Here's why I think this variance should be granted:

First, by process of elimination, let's review the other commercial locations where a dispensary could go. 51st/Baseline, also near schools/daycares/residential, is easily Laveen's prime retail market. This means prime rents as well, which I would guess are not an option. 51st/Southern already has a smoke shop and, oh yeah, a public charter school (maybe someday that office complex will appear on the NW corner as well). This doesn't seem like a great location to me, especially as close as it will be to the planned freeway and all of the pre-existing traffic on 51st -- why let it become a one stop drive-by location for those passing through. Then there's 35th/Baseline -- you know, right across from the park, library, and high school. No go. So how about 27th/Southern? Nope, there's a private school and a daycare there. 27th/Baseline? I suppose that one could work, except that there's also a public school nearby and this is otherwise a very low-traffic area. So how about 43rd/Southern? 35th/Broadway? 27th/Dobbins? 51st/Dobbins? Somewhere mid-block? I don't think any of those are good options, considering they are not very visible or patrolled (not sure that there's actually available space at any of those, either).

That leaves us with the intersection of 35th/Southern as the only one with plenty of available commercial space. This intersection has been plagued with business closures, from the ghost town of a Mervyn's center on the NW to the now shuttered Ace Hardware on the NE and the closed OfficeMax on the SW. But what has done well there? Wal-Mart, multiple fast food restaurants, and more recently there have been several medically related businesses popping up (and a little confection shop and locally owned gun store if we're being thorough -- please spare the obvious jokes and unfounded concerns about co-locating a marijuana dispensary nearby). The dispensary didn't choose one of the nearly empty shopping centers or a hidden location in the back corner, but instead opted for a shop space out in front of the busy and well patrolled Wal-Mart, also near an urgent care facility and multiple other relatively high traffic businesses. What a sensible location! They're *ahem* puffing some new life into the area and perhaps even benefitting other nearby businesses (sorry, couldn't help it).

Isn't this what we want? Shouldn't we want the most visible and secure location available? Doesn't it make sense that this business be located nearby other medically relevant businesses if we are to accept the "medical marijuana" premise, which isn't remotely up for debate on this matter? I don't feel strongly about this issue, except that I want badly for common sense to prevail on such matters so that we can spare our energy for the more important battles. If you believe as I do that this is an easy one to let pass, please feel to contact and via email with a short note expressing your support (apparently you need to send it off by Wednesday, May 23rd for it to count, but don't sweat the details -- just your opinion, name, and maybe address so that they know it's from an actual member of the community). Also, I understand that the dispensary operators and their representatives are meeting with neighbors at the Laveen Starbucks (at 51st/Baseline) this evening, Monday May 21st, at 6:00 PM. I encourage you to go and find out more. Otherwise, keep an eye out for private crops, coming your way soon (almost forgot to mention that a dispensary location preempts growing rights nearby). That is all. Have a wonderful day.

***Full disclosure: I own a home in Laveen, but have recently moved down the street and now live in the South Mountain Village. This will be properly mentioned in the message I plan to send the above mentioned city officials in favor of the dispensary.

Update, May 21st, 4:11 PM: Here's my letter to the city officials mentioned above:

Dear Phoenix Planning Officials: 
Please see my recent blog post in favor of the medical marijuana dispensary currently being considered for the intersection of 35th/Southern in Laveen: For the record, I am in no way affiliated with the applicants, nor do I have a stake in the overall medical marijuana debate. And as noted at the very end of my post, I am no longer a Laveen resident, but still live nearby and have an interest in the community as a property owner. I have also served on the LVPC in the past, worked in commercial and residential real estate, and been an active community member, which I hope provides a certain degree of authority on the matter. Please let me know if you have any additional questions or requests for comment. 
Best regards, 
Patrick Brennan