Cannabis Process Begins

The City of Yankton has its homework laid out after finishing its first round of medical cannabis dispensary application submissions.

Ahead of Monday night’s regular City Commission meeting, Yankton City Manager Amy Leon told the Press & Dakotan that the city had received four applications as of Monday afternoon.

“We’re certainly accepting more if they come in. However, this will be the first round that we go through to determine if they meet our criteria to be sent forward to the state,” she said.

During a press briefing Friday, she said that potentially as many as 10 interested parties had expressed a serious intent of applying for a dispensary permit in the city but that they had not yet received any of the applications by 10 a.m.

The deadline for the first round of applications was Friday, Sept. 10, and all four applications were received at the deadline. Leon said she hasn’t waded through any of the permit applications yet, but that city officials will begin their review process shortly.

“We have some background information that the police department will help us with,” she said. “Our Community Development Department will look at the proposed location to make sure it fits the criteria that we’ve set forth. We also will be taking a look to see that they’ve filled out their application appropriately with all the legal information we need. Ross (Den Herder, Yankton city attorney) will help us through that. Then we’ll want to make sure the application is actually complete as well. … Once we go through that process, we’ll see who in fact meets the criteria.”

All suitable applications will be forwarded on to the state, where a final decision will be made on which applications will be approved.

Leon said, with this being the first time the city has ever dealt with medical cannabis licensure, she is unable to say with any certainty how long the review process will take.

“I’d like to get them turned around so that we can get them to the state in October at some point,” she said. “I’d like to see a two- or three-week turnaround time, but I didn’t put a deadline on it only because we just don’t know how long some of the things are going to take us.”

For now, dispensaries are capped at two within the City of Yankton, meaning at least two of the permit applications will ultimately be unsuccessful for the time being. Leon said it will be up to the City Commission as to when the city may allow more permits.

“I think it depends upon the use and popularity and the market,” she said. “Another thing that’s really going to drive this is what happens with recreational marijuana. That might make a big difference in the market and in our community. … I think it’s good that we’re starting smaller in terms of it being something new and something manageable for us. We’ll see where it takes us.”

During Monday’s meeting, the board also restarted a discussion on gauging the desire to develop frontage property along Broadway Ave. west of the Yankton City Cemetery.

Community & Economic Development Director Dave Mingo said that his office occasionally gets asked about the tract of land.

“We fairly regularly at the staff level and working with developers have inquiries about the Broadway frontage property,” he said. “There’s somewhere over 7 acres — 7.3-7.4 acres — of frontage property west of the cemetery that is not occupied. It’s not platted as cemetery ground.”

Not counting that property and considering current interment trends, he said the Yankton City Cemetery has more than 160 years of space still available.

Mingo said the last serious discussion of development on this property came in 2007.

Former City Commissioner Charlie Gross, who was part of that discussion, was on hand at Monday’s meeting.

“In 2007, I was opposed to this when we were approached,” he said during the public comment portion. “I would just leave it empty forever, myself. I think selling off the frontage would be a big mistake for the long term.”

Commissioner Ben Brunick spoke favorably of exploring development along the frontage property.

“Instead of it just being an open space, I think it could be something that could be a benefit to the community,” he said. “The city is moving in direction outward. I think there will be opportunities in the future — if we are miscalculating on the 160 years where we are going to have more of a demand — for additional cemetery lots as the community expands.”

Commissioners Tony Maibaum and Mason Schramm also spoke favorably.

Commissioner Mike Villanueva said he’s not necessarily opposed, but wants any development done cautiously given its proximity to the existing cemetery.

“We need to make sure that there’s some type of buffer zone, for the lack of a better word, to make sure that we’re being very respectful of what’s on the east side,” he said.

Commissioner Amy Miner agreed, stating she’s not opposed to the idea but wants the sanctity of the cemetery protected as well.

Being a discussion, no formal action was taken Monday, but a request for proposal (RFP) will be completed for a future meeting.

In other business Monday, the commission:

• Approved the 2022 municipal budget.

• Approved an at-risk property acquisition.

• Approved a plat and a conditional-use permit.

• Approved a purchase agreement for 1.3 acres of land by Yankton Thrive. The development will include the relocation of one of the former Yankton Territorial Museum buildings currently located in Westside Park.

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