Plans for medical marijuana dispensary in Des Peres met with pushback from neighboring businesses

The city says its zoning ordinance regarding dispensaries mirrors that of an amendment to the state constitution approved by voters in 2018.
Published: Mar. 16, 2022 at 8:17 PM CDT
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DES PERES (KMOV) -A proposal for a medical marijuana dispensary in Des Peres has several neighboring commercial businesses concerned about safety and traffic congestion.

The City of Des Peres said it has received an application and is evaluating a petition to put a medical marijuana dispensary at 12095 Manchester Road.

“Des Peres zoning regulations are as restrictive as allowed by the Missouri state constitution, which prohibit dispensaries within 1,000 feet of a church, school or daycare center,” Douglas J. Harms, City Administrator in Des Peres, said. “The city has previously denied two applications for marijuana dispensaries at locations within the city that were within 1,000 feet of a church or daycare center.”

Kristine Finlay, Managing Partner of Briann Realty LP, who owns the strip center adjacent to the proposed location, said she is opposed to a dispensary moving in at the proposed location.

“First, nearly all of the more than 40 family-friendly businesses already in the adjacent shopping center that my firm manages do not support this,” she said. “Second, it would be located just 45 feet from an established and popular after-school mathematics instructional center for K-12 kids.”

Mathnasium, a math learning center, has been in the strip center for three years. However, Harms said the city does not designate it as a school, therefore the proposed dispensary would not be in violation of the city ordinance.

“The city has determined Mathnasium, which is located within 1,000 feet of the proposed dispensary, is not a school within the meaning of our zoning code,” he said.

That interpretation is being legally challenged by Finlay.

“It most certainly functions as an after school educational center that helps kids from local schools learn their math curriculum and become more successful,” she said. “This location violates the spirit of the law and should not be tolerated.”

Jill Niemann lives nearby and her fourth grade daughter attends Mathnasium after school.

“Though I’m not opposed to a dispensary, I’m not in favor of the location in proximity to our residence and also to Mathnasium where my daughter goes to,” she said. “I just think the proximity is just too close.”

The owners of Mathnasium could not be reached for comment on Wednesday. However, they did send a letter to the mayor voicing their concerns over the proposal.

“We are disheartened to hear of the possibility of a dispensary opening so close to our center,” the statement said, in part. “As parents to two teenaged daughters, we are in the unenviable yet familiar position of vigilant sentinels of our children’s safety and judgment as they navigate their way from dependent beings to full-fledged adults. The parents who entrust us with the education of their children occupy the same position as we do, most with even younger kids, and would be uncomfortable leaving them in the care of our facility when it is next to a business that would unnecessarily and prematurely expose them to concerns and issues beyond their current capacity to process and understand.”

Kim Wicks opened Frontenac Salon next door to the proposed site in January. After gutting the space and investing tens of thousands of dollars, she said she’s concerned about the plan.

“If we’re gonna have it, we need to have it in locations that aren’t so busy with people and businesses that aren’t going to go there,” she said. “It is what it is, hopefully if it comes in we’ll be fine and our clients will be fine and happy but it’s going to be tough. I know my clients aren’t going to want to smell it.”

The city said its Board of Adjusters will hear the legal challenge at its April 27 meeting. Until then, Harms said, further consideration of the petition is suspended.