Aurora poised to change pot rules despite controversy

Special Reports

Currently, the city gets about $6,000 a year in state marijuana revenue, while having zero pot shops

The City of Aurora could soon allow marijuana dispensaries downtown, despite opposition from the Historic Review Board (Hannah Ray Lambert)

AURORA, Ore. (KOIN) — The City of Aurora is considering making a historic change to its historic district: Allowing marijuana dispensaries to set up shop.

Oregon voters legalized recreational marijuana in 2014, but individual municipalities were left to decide if it would be legal in their cities. If cities do not allow it, they don’t get any of the tax revenue. Recreational marijuana retailers have to charge a 17% state tax on sales. Cities and counties can add local taxes up to 3% on sales. That revenue goes to a dedicated account that is supposed to be divided between education, mental health services, police, cities and counties.

Aurora decided to allow marijuana, but set strict rules on where the businesses would be allowed and their hours of operation. Dispensaries are not allowed in the historic district, which covers most of the downtown area. Currently, no marijuana shops operate anywhere within city limits (though a processing facility in the city’s industrial zone just got its first business license). However, the city still gets about $6,000 a year in state tax revenue, according to City Recorder Scott Jorgensen.

The neighboring cities of Canby and Wilsonville, for example, do not allow any recreational marijuana facilities and therefore do not get any tax revenue.

Now, someone wants to open a pot shop in the building adjacent to the Aurora Colony Pub on Highway 99E, spurring controversy among the city’s leaders.

The proposed business that started the debate is eyeing a location along Highway 99E (KOIN)

At its meeting in late January, the Historic Review Board unanimously voted against allowing pot shops in the historic district on numerous grounds, including that a pot shop wouldn’t fit the look of the district and that a cash-based business “attracts the wrong type of folks to it.”

Then the Planning Commission held a hearing in early February, discussing the same issue.

One of the concerns raised has been the city’s lack of a police department, and opponents’ speculation that having a pot shop would lead to more “action in town in the evenings,” according to city records.

A resident in favor of allowing the new business pointed out that gas stations are not historic, but the city has one of those downtown.

According to commissioner Bud Fawcett, even if the store is allowed, the Historic Review Board will have some control over the aesthetics. The planning commission recommended approval of the amendment on a 3-2 vote.

There will be another public hearing about the proposed legislative amendment Tuesday evening before the Aurora City Council, which has the final say in the matter.

The Aurora City Council will host a public hearing Tuesday, February 11 over a proposed legislative amendment that would allow marijuana shops in the historic district (Hannah Ray Lambert)

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