Government

Kalispell Restricts Marijuana Operations to Industrial Zones

Dispensaries, cultivation and manufacturing facilities will not be allowed in city's business zones; council approves multi-use housing developments

By Maggie Dresser
Flowering marijuana plants grow in an indoor, climate-controlled rooms at Tamarack Dispensary, a purveyor of medical cannabis in Evergreen on May 14, 2021. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

The Kalispell City Council approved an ordinance that will allow recreational marijuana dispensaries, cultivation and manufacturing in industrial zones of the city once facilities statewide are permitted to open starting Jan. 1, 2022.

Dispensaries will be treated similar to liquor stores while cultivation and manufacturing facilities will be akin to industrial manufacturing. A 300-foot buffer from churches, schools, parks and city residential zones measured from property line to property line will be required.

The original proposed ordinance would have allowed dispensaries, which are considered retail, in certain business zones, however in a 4-3 vote, the council amended it to be restricted to industrial zones after it was motioned by Mayor Mark Johnson. Councilors Kyle Waterman, Sid Daoud and Ryan Hunter opposed the amendment.

“I feel like we are adding an extra barrier,” Waterman said. “It’s rare we get a new industry … This is legalized now.”

Industrial zones are limited to few locations in the city, restricting marijuana facilities to Old School Station on the southern end of Kalispell and areas near the city airport.

Johnson said marijuana legalization could negatively impact the community.

“I do not want to look at additional tax revenues based on what I believe is an issue with society by permitting the sale and distribution of marijuana within the City of Kalispell,” Johnson said. “I would rather see this highly restricted.”

“The detrimental impacts of this drug are too great to unleash on our society,” he added. “And I think it’s shortsighted the citizens. Every citizen that worked hard on this initiative should look in the mirror at night and say ‘My God, what have I done?’ Because I hope the ills of this don’t come back to roost in your families.”

Only one person spoke during public comment and he encouraged the council to restrict marijuana operations as much as possible.

“I’m from California where I’ve seen medical marijuana decimate communities and dispensaries destroy communities and children,” Rafael Moscatel said.

Voters approved the use and sale of recreational marijuana in the November 2020 election and Gov. Greg Gianforte signed the “Montana Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act,” or House Bill 701, this past May. The Department of Revenue will begin accepting license applications on or before Jan. 1. The City of Kalispell will likely see licensed providers intending to open businesses as early as Jan. 31 next year.

City Council must pass a second reading on Oct. 18 before the ordinance goes into effect. The community can provide public comment at the city council meeting or email publiccomment@kalispell.com.

Additionally, the council unanimously passed two separate residential developments.

Located on 38 acres at the northwest corner of Airport Road and Cemetery Road, the Parkland Meadows proposal includes a total of 480 dwelling units, potentially expanding to 600 units, and commercial space on a mixed-use development. The property will also be annexed into the city.

Council approved a separate mixed-use development planned on 58 acres on the west side of Stillwater Road near Glacier High School.

The Starling development proposal will include 77 lots, including townhomes and single-family, in the first phase along with 35 multi-family dwelling units and a common area in future phases. A certain number of accessory dwelling units will also be permitted on the development.

“I can’t wait to see the new tally of the number of units we’ve approved to date,” Daoud said. “Seeing these developments is exciting, especially since they are incorporating so much density. I’m super excited to be adding housing to Kalispell.”

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