Bethlehem Press

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Bethlehem Council discusses medical marijuana

Tuesday, June 13, 2017 by Michelle Meeh Special to the Bethlehem Press in Local News

City council held two public hearings during the June 6 meeting. The first was for input on a proposed ordinance allowing medical marijuana research, growth and distribution in the city. The second was for a proposed ordinance to define psychological and behavioral health facilities.

Director of Planning and Zoning Darlene Heller said the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission reviewed the ordinance on medical marijuana and actually found it more restrictive than the state legislation. The state medical marijuana act is “quite detailed legislation,” she said.

The proposed medical marijuana ordinance would permit academic and clinical research and growing/processing of marijuana in light industrial zones. Dispensaries, which would not be permitted in the same areas, would also require a 100 foot separation from schools and day care centers. Heller showed a city map showing possible locations. “There’s not a whole lot left, not a whole lot of room,” she said.

A dispensary of medical marijuana would be very similar to pharmacy, Heller said, and would be required to submit documentation of compliance with the state legislation. There would be no drive-thru lanes and no outdoor seating, Heller said. “We tried to keep it simple and in compliance with the state act.”

She said there have been inquiries but no actual applications or any medical marijuana related facilities. The proposal will be voted on first reading at the June 20 meeting.

Heller said the purpose of the proposed change to the zoning ordinance regarding psychological and behavioral health facilities was to clear up ambiguity in definitions. Under the proposed ordinance, psychological facilities would be permitted as part of a hospital, provided they occupy less than 25 percent of floor space.

The proposal will also be voted on first reading at the June 20 meeting.

Council members also gave final approval for expanding the Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance, (LERTA) zone, which allows tax assessments for property improvements to be phased in over a 10-year period.

In other business, council rescheduled the first meeting in July from the 4th - Independence Day - to the 5th.

Also, council members will hold a Committee of the Whole meeting June 26 at 6 p.m. in city hall to discuss a proposed ethics ordinance.