Pubdate: Wed, 24 Feb 2016
Source: Alaska Dispatch News (AK)
Copyright: 2016 Alaska Dispatch Publishing
Note: Anchorage Daily News until July '14
Author: Devin Kelly


Anchorage officials will mark off the minimum 500 feet between 
schools and pot shops by using walking distances, not a straight 
line, the Anchorage Assembly decided in a unanimous vote Tuesday night.

The decision means more potential properties will be available for 
pot businesses in Anchorage. The Assembly's vote, a reversal from two 
weeks earlier, effectively loosens restrictions on where businesses 
will be allowed to open by in some cases shrinking the off-limits 
zone around schools and other restricted places.

That won't apply to Chugiak and Eagle River, where pot shops will 
need to be at least 1,000 feet away, measured by pedestrian walking distance.

The Assembly had passed conflicting rules on the measurement method 
at its Feb. 9 meeting. One amendment specifically set the "as the 
crow flies" straight-line measurement method as the standard, but 
another referred to the walking route method, which can be more circuitous.

In an email to the city clerk's office the next day, Assemblyman 
Patrick Flynn -- who has said he's been approached as an investor in 
a pot business, but hasn't made any formal commitments -- pointed out 
the discrepancy and asked for a new vote. Flynn voted against using 
the straight-line, or "as the crow flies," method at the Feb. 9 meeting.

He and others argued that the more restrictive "as the crow flies" 
method would too drastically shrink the pool of available properties 
in an already tight real estate market. Assemblywoman Amy Demboski of 
Eagle River, who introduced the amendment, said she thought it was 
fair, given that the Assembly had allowed pot businesses to be 500 
feet from schools instead of 1,000 feet.

At Tuesday's meeting, the Assembly adopted a proposal co-authored by 
Flynn and Assemblyman Bill Starr of Eagle River. The proposal said 
that except in Chugiak and Eagle River, the distance will be measured 
by the "shortest practicable pedestrian route" instead of from lot 
line to lot line.

The compromise decision arrived on the eve of the first date that the 
state will accept pot business applications, to the relief of some 
hoping to enter the business.

Kevin McKinley, 52, who owns a tattoo and piercing shop downtown, is 
hoping to open a retail shop downtown. He said the location he's 
considering, near his existing business on Fifth Avenue, would have 
been 200 feet short of being allowed when applying the straight-line 

He said he was "euphoric" that the Assembly reconsidered, giving his 
chosen property a chance. He said he'd been leasing it for the past 18 months.

"It's like a huge weight lifted off," McKinley said. "Now with this, 
we can move on to really start the real work, the heavy process of 
doing the applications ... which is going to be no small task in itself."

At a special Assembly meeting earlier this month, Ed Graff, 
superintendent of the Anchorage School District, said the district 
supported a 1,000-foot separation distance from schools, in line with 
federal drug-free zones. ASD spokeswoman Heidi Embley said Tuesday 
night that Graff stood behind those comments.

The rules mean all pot businesses will need to be at least 500 feet 
away from protected uses in Anchorage, and 1,000 feet in Chugiak and 
Eagle River. In addition to schools, those places are:

Churches and other houses of worship

Jails and halfway houses

Community centers

Neighborhood recreation centers


Public housing

Day care centers

Homeless shelters

Therapy centers for people with disabilities

In Chugiak and Eagle River only:

Dedicated parks

Residential districts

The McDonald Memorial Center ice rink

The state has adopted the walking-distance measurement method and a 
500-foot separation distance from schools.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom