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City panel denies marijuana dispensary variances, suggests applicants search for other Mitchell locations

“I am doing my best to find another location, but it’s been very tough because costs of those locations are high," said Emmett Reistroffer, a Sioux Falls medical marijuana entrepreneur seeking to open a dispensary in downtown Mitchell.

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Shown here is the 501 E. Juniper Avenue building where Donald Livesay is seeking to open a medical cannabis dispensary. The Planning Commission denied recommending the variance on Monday.
Sam Fosness / Mitchell Republic

MITCHELL — Two entrepreneurs seeking to open medical marijuana dispensaries in Mitchell again had their variances denied Monday by the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission.

Although the Mitchell City Council recently made several changes to the city’s medical cannabis ordinances, none of the changes impacted the two applicants' variances considering one applicant’s proposed dispensary location is within 300 feet from a religious institution while the other applicant’s proposed dispensary is within 1,000 feet from another dispensary.

As commission member Jon Osterloo put it, the city’s zoning regulations that state a medical cannabis dispensary cannot be within certain distances from a church or another approved dispensary were left in place for a reason.

“The 1,000 foot distance was kept in place, and same with the 300 feet from churches. So I am going to vote on this and honor the zoning codes,” Osterloo said.

Since the council did not change the 300-foot buffer zone around religious institutions, Emmett Reistroffer, a Sioux Falls medical marijuana entrepreneur who is seeking a variance to open a dispensary in downtown Mitchell, is required to secure a variance to open a dispensary on the corner of Fifth Avenue and Main Street. After a couple nearby business owners spoke in opposition of Reistroffer’s variance, the Planning Commission unanimously denied the variance.

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The most notable change the council made to the city’s cannabis ordinances was the elimination of factoring in the right-of-ways from the distance between two dispensaries, which did not change the fact that Donald Livesay Jr.’s proposed dispensary location at 501 E. Juniper Ave. is still within 1,000 feet from another approved dispensary along Burr Street.

The right-of-ways mainly consist of major roadways like Interstate 90 and nearby highways. With the elimination of right-of-ways being considered, it allows Native Nations Cannabis to open a dispensary at 1620 S. Burr St. without having to secure a variance. The Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe’s medical cannabis dispensary previously had to secure a variance because it fell within 1,000 feet from an educational institution and dispensary solely due to the right-of-ways.

During Monday’s Planning and Zoning Commission meeting, Doug Dailey, an attorney representing several residents who own property near Livesay’s proposed Juniper Avenue dispensary, emphasized the city’s ordinance was drafted with the intent to prohibit a concentration of medical marijuana establishments in one area of Mitchell. Dailey said Livesay’s dispensary would put four cannabis dispensaries “very close to each other” in the south side of Mitchell.

“The council affirmed that the intent of the zoning ordinance is to prevent a concentration of cannabis establishments. The council could have changed the 1,000 feet distance, but they didn’t,” Dailey said.

Livesay Jr.’s proposed dispensary location falls within 1,000 feet from another dispensary that was approved prior to his application. The city’s ordinance states a dispensary cannot be within 1,000 feet from another dispensary, which is why Livesay Jr. is required to secure a variance to open.

Livesay Jr.’s plan to open a dispensary at the Juniper Avenue building has also sparked opposition from another nearby property owner, Nick Kummer, who cited traffic concerns and potential public safety issues.

Kummer asked the Planning Commission to keep the nearby landowners in mind, rather than cater to the cannabis businesses.

“Per the section on the ordinance, the intent is to minimize the negative effects cannabis establishments have on adjacent land uses, which acknowledges there are negative effects on nearby landowners,” Kummer said during Monday’s meeting. “Those nearby landowners and businesses are your citizens you are trying to protect, not the cannabis establishment owners.”

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Considering the first three approved medical marijuana dispensaries in Mitchell are located on the south side of Mitchell, with two along Burr Street and one in a strip mall near Walmart, Dailey argued that a fourth dispensary in the south portion of the city would cause a concentration of marijuana establishments.

As a compromise, Dailey suggested Livesay Jr. search for another location in Mitchell to open a dispensary due to the concentration of marijuana establishments around the area.

“We don’t believe that there has been any showing of hardship. In this particular situation, Mr. Livesay has plenty of other options,” Dailey said. “The best thing to do, we think, would be to find another location.”

The Mitchell City Council will ultimately decide whether to grant the variances at its next meeting.

Looking for other locations

While the Planning Commission unanimously denied Reistroffer’s variance, he highlighted that his proposed downtown dispensary location is the only cannabis establishment that would not be in the south portion of Mitchell.

With the concentration of dispensaries in the south side of Mitchell, Reistroffer said it’s a major reason he chose to pursue the Main Street location.

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Shown here is the Fifth Avenue and Main Street building that a Sioux Falls entrepreneur is seeking to open a medical marijuana dispensary. Tara Volesky recently purchased the building on the Northwest corner of North Main Street and Fifth Avenue in downtown Mitchell. (Matt Gade / Republic)
Matt Gade

“We are really a retail store. So we fit in the downtown central business district,” he said. “We wanted to go downtown because that south area is very saturated.”

Over the past few months, Reistroffer said he’s been shopping around for other potential locations to open his dispensary. While he identified a new potential location in downtown Mitchell at the vacant building that formerly housed Overtime Steakhouse, Reistroffer said the costs of arranging the building for a dispensary are significantly higher than what he’s staring down at the 100 West Fifth Ave. building.

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“I am doing my best to find another location, but it’s been very tough because costs of those locations are high. This downtown building is turn-key ready,” Reistroffer said. “We won’t give up if we don’t get this. I still want to do business here, and we take security and safety measures very seriously.”

As more churches have moved into downtown buildings, Reistroffer pointed to the city of Sioux Falls’ recent ordinance that removed the buffer zone for medical cannabis establishments that are close to churches located in a central business district like downtown Mitchell.

Mitchell City Council member Steve Rice recently questioned whether a buffer zone for churches in the downtown area should exist, noting bars that sell alcohol don’t have to comply with such regulations like medical cannabis establishments do.

“If the churches want to go to commercial business districts, that’s great. But the city of Sioux Falls recently removed the buffer zones altogether because there are more churches going in commercial business districts,” Reistroffer said, noting one Sioux Falls church meets inside of a Shenanigans Bar.

Sam Fosness joined the Mitchell Republic in May 2018. He was raised in Mitchell, S.D., and graduated from Mitchell High School. He continued his education at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, where he graduated in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in English. During his time in college, Fosness worked as a news and sports reporter for The Volante newspaper.
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