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Planning Commission to reconsider variances for two medical marijuana dispensaries hoping to open in Mitchell

New changes to city's ordinance cleared way for Native Nations Cannabis' dispensary, while two dispensary applicants still in need of variances

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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. The Planning and Zoning Commission will reconsider the variances the dispensary needs to open.
Matt Gade/Matt Gade

MITCHELL — After being tabled for the past two months, two entities seeking to open medical marijuana dispensaries in Mitchell will have their variance requests reconsidered Monday by the Planning and Zoning Commission.

With the recent changes to the city’s medical marijuana ordinances now in effect, Emmett Reistroffer, of Sioux Falls, and Donald Livesay Jr., of Mitchell, are bringing their variance requests back to the Planning and Zoning Commission on Monday for the first time since the changes were approved.

Perhaps the most notable change to the ordinance that the Mitchell City Council recently approved in early February is eliminating the rights of way from being factored into the distance between two medical marijuana dispensaries. The city’s ordinance states a dispensary cannot be within 1,000 feet from another dispensary.

When measuring the distance from another cannabis dispensary, the city previously factored in the rights of way – which mainly consist of major roadways like Interstate 90 and nearby highways.

Scrapping rights of way from the distance between dispensaries paved the way for Native Nations Cannabis to get their proposed dispensary location at 1620 S. Burr St. approved.

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Although Native Nations Cannabis’ proposed dispensary location near Interstate 90 is technically more than 1,000 feet from the nearest educational institution and another approved nearby dispensary, it previously fell within 1,000 feet from Mitchell Technical College and the approved dispensary solely due to the right-of-ways being factored into the distance. After the council scrapped the rights of way, the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe’s Native Nations Cannabis is no longer required to secure a variance to operate out of the strip mall on the south side of Mitchell.

Reistroffer’s variance will not be affected by the medical marijuana ordinance changes that the council approved. Reistroffer, owner of Sioux Falls-based Genesis Farms, is seeking to open a medical cannabis dispensary inside of a building on the corner of Fifth Avenue and Main Street in downtown Mitchell. However, the proposed location is within 300 feet from a religious institution. Under the regulations in the city’s ordinance, a dispensary cannot be located within 300 feet of a religious institution, unless a variance request is approved.

When the council recently approved making several changes to the city’s medical marijuana ordinances, council member Steve Rice questioned whether the city should keep the 300-foot buffer zone around religious institutions. Rice pointed out bars in Mitchell that sell alcohol aren’t required to comply with any buffer zones stipulating they cannot be within 300 feet from a religious institution.

“We don’t require any buffer zones for bars and religious institutions downtown,” Rice said during a recent council meeting.

It’s unclear if the elimination of rights of way being included in the distance between dispensaries could affect Livesay Jr.’s variance request to open a dispensary at 501 E. Juniper Ave.

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 nearby property owners, who have cited traffic concerns and potential public safety issues.

The city Planning and Zoning Commission’s decision on whether to recommend approval of Reistroffer and Livesay Jr.’s variance request on Monday is merely a recommendation. The Mitchell City Council will ultimately decide the fate of both variances following the Planning and Zoning Commission’s decision.

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As of now, there are three dispensaries that have been approved to operate in Mitchell. A Missouri-based medical cannabis company’s plan to open a dispensary at the former Runnings building along Burr Street and Jordan Raftis’ plan to open a dispensary in a strip mall near Walmart were the first two dispensaries to secure approval from the council. Native Nations Cannabis is the most recent dispensary that cleared its obstacles to open a dispensary along South Burr Street.

Thus far, none of the approved dispensaries have officially opened.

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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