A proposed downtown Scottsdale dispensary

A proposed downtown Scottsdale dispensary project is scheduled to go before the Scottsdale Planning Commission on Nov. 18.

A proposed medical marijuana dispensary in downtown Scottsdale will go before the city Planning Commission this week and is scheduled to reach City Council Dec. 4.

The proposed project, from prominent downtown property owners Shawn and Steven Yari, would replace aging single-story buildings in the city’s Entertainment District with a two-story building featuring a dispensary on the first floor and boutique office space on the second.

The Yaris are asking the city to essentially spot zone their property at Shoeman Lane and Wells Fargo Avenue for the dispensary.

According to an application with the city, the property owners are asking Council to rezone the property and approve a conditional use permit for the dispensary. 

They are also asking for a citywide text amendment that would reduce separation requirements for dispensaries downtown. 

The existing city ordinance requires a dispensary to be 1,500 feet from schools, parks, churches, daycares and homes. The application asks that separation be cut to 650 feet for downtown dispensaries only.

Without that amendment in place, the dispensary concept is dead on arrival.

The proposed dispensary is about 1,300 feet away from Perform to Learn Preschool.

That preschool was a point of controversy in another proposed dispensary project that failed to move past Council in 2019.

That project, located a quarter-mile away from the new project near 5th Avenue and Scottsdale Road, was opposed by property owners who argued it was too close to the preschool and a nearby Christian Science Reading room.

This time around, the project is unlikely to face the same challenges from local property owners because the Yaris already own much of the neighboring properties in the Entertainment District. 

If the Yari’s date with the Council is delayed it could face additional scrutiny from the new Council.

Based on incoming members’ history and comments during the election campaign, it is likely the new Council majority will be more reticent to approve a dispensary downtown.

Mayor-elect David Ortega was one of the chief critics of the earlier dispensary plan.

During a candidate forum this year, incoming Council members Betty Janik and Tom Durham said they did not support legalizing recreational marijuana – which could factor into a dispensary vote.

Recently approved Prop 207 will give existing medical marijuana dispensaries a head start in receiving recreational marijuana licenses from the state.

Ortega, Janik and Durham will join current City Councilmember Kathy Littlefield, who voted against the earlier dispensary proposal.

Councilwoman-elect Tammy Caputi, who said she supported the legalization of recreational marijuana at a candidate forum.

Another wrinkle in this new application is the project’s lack of a dispensary licensee attached the location.

“We are representing the landlord/developer and there is not a specific licensee associated with the application at this juncture,” Morris told the Progress in October.

However, there is only one licensee authorized to open a new dispensary in southern Scottsdale the Yaris likely are attempting to woo the same licensee attached to the earlier dispensary proposal.

The Arizona Department of Health Services, which regulates dispensaries, originally issued one permit for southern Scottsdale that is now in operation as MedMen Scottsdale.

It issued a second permit in 2017 but that permit holder has yet to find a site that conforms to all of Scottsdale’s separation requirements, which are stricter than comparable cities.

That is why the current application is seeking a reprieve from those strict separations downtown.

In the permit application, Morris argued it is an issue of access to medical care and that Council essentially zoned out dispensaries in the area when it increased separation requirements in 2016.

“No dispensaries exist in downtown and, in fact, no dispensaries exist in Scottsdale from Via De Ventura, all the way south to Tempe,” Morris wrote.

Northern Scottsdale has four dispensaries.