City leaders are split on whether medical marijuana should be sold downtown while there’s strong consensus that property taxes from a pot farm in Chapel Hill should be used to repair nearby sewers and sidewalks.
City Council is considering three proposals this month from one medical marijuana grower and two sellers — all setting up shop in Akron, the only city with three grow operations licensed by the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program.
The state control group missed a Sept. 9 deadline to get the statewide medical marijuana program up and running. There’s no word on when the first doctor recommendations might be filled for patients with one of 23 ailments, from post-traumatic stress disorder to chronic pain.
In Akron, administrators are pushing for dispensaries near but not in downtown. On Home Avenue, where grow sites will operate across the street from each other, there’s already a plan to use property tax dollars associated with the industry.
Among the city’s three proposed grow sites, which all would use indoor hydroponic systems, the only with a large-scale Level I state license will be located in an old sewer maintenance building at 1055 Home Ave. The city sold the unused public property for $355,000 to Equinox Capital Group LLC, which is controlled by Akron builder Paul Thomarios, according to state documents. Adam Thomarios, Paul’s son, will run the farm through AT-CPC of Ohio LLC.
The Thomarioses plan to pump $1 million into the old sewer building on 3.72 acres of rundown city land. As the property improves, its valuation should increase, along with the tax bill. That extra revenue, for the next 30 years, would be set aside.
But unlike the Rolling Acres deal where the extra taxes are returned to the private developer in exchange for new jobs and urban renewal, Brad Beckert with the city’s economic development office said the Home Avenue deal would use the extra tax funding to repair sidewalks, sewers, “anything in the area.”
Council gave preliminary approval for the tax deal this week. A final vote is scheduled for Monday when another public hearing will be held on whether to allow a medical marijuana dispensary to open at 737 North St.
The proposed location, inside what is now a boat repair shop where Arlington Street dead-ends into North Street and Home Avenue, is about a 20-minute bus ride from downtown followed by a 27-minute walk, according to the Metro RTA’s Trip Planner, which uses Google maps.
Speaking at a public hearing Monday on a third proposal to open a dispensary at 46 S. Summit St., Chief of Staff James Hardy said it’s “really up to council” whether the pot shop get conditional approval, adding that there’s been “no shenanigans, nothing controversial” in the administration’s push to stop the operation’s opening.
While Councilwoman Linda Omobien was absent, Council members in attendance unanimously voted for the downtown dispensary.
The mayor’s planning staff and the planning commission have argued that a pot dispensary “does not comport with the downtown arts district … and north side entertainment” and that the Akron-Summit County Main Library, the John S. and James L. Knight Center and the Akron Arts Museum “may be impacted by the presence of this dispensary.”
But the site, inside a historic building being redeveloped by Tony Trope, is exactly where Greenleaf Apothecaries said it was told by the city to look for commercial space.
Kate Nelson, a Copley resident and director of community engagement for Greenleaf Apothecaries, told Council Monday that it was Bret Hendren, Akron’s economic development specialist, who said the downtown biomedical corridor — a label that never took off — would be an ideal space to win city approval. Hendren doesn’t remember that conversation.
Nelson also said Summit County Executive Ilene Shapiro supported the downtown application. Shapiro was not at the meeting, but county Chief of Staff Jason Dodson said the county, which owns property downtown, does not object to the location.
Nelson and her colleagues’ plan received the highest score of any proposal reviewed by the state. Their proposal would create 17 jobs and $50,000 annually in local income tax. Their product would be unloaded in a secured garage, not outside. Should the electric go out, a generator would power three separate security and alarm systems managed by two companies. Patients would get free monthly wellness checkups, health diagnostics, even compression sock fittings. The center would hold blood drives and give free rides and haircuts to veterans.
Council member Rich Swirsky, who represents that sliver of downtown, applauded the company for selecting a location between two major hospitals, centrally located and only six minutes from a bus stop.
Reach Doug Livingston at 330-996-3792 or firstname.lastname@example.org.