New lawsuit filed against city over marijuana zoning rules
Another lawsuit related to marijuana business operations has been filed against the city.
Green Creek LLC, owned by Janelle and Dale Yatsko, has filed a new complaint against the city over their proposed location for a dispensary.
The Yatsko’s signed a lease for 1826 10th Ave. S, the former Bowser Brewing site, in February 2022 and have been paying rent.
At the time they signed the lease, all marijuana business operations were prohibition under city zoning code.
All land uses for marijuana, such as sales, cultivation, testing and other activities were prohibited in the city’s zoning code since the code prohibits any land uses that are prohibited by federal law.
The city enacted the prohibition of marijuana, both medical and recreational, in 2010 and the rule had not been challenged since, including in the years that medical marijuana was legalized in Montana and Cascade County, but not within the city limits.
The Yatskos applied for a safety inspection certificate in the spring and city staff did not process the application due to the previous ordinance. The Yatskos appealed that decision to the City Commission, which upheld the staff decision during an April meeting and later voted to send the question of marijuana businesses to the November ballot.
After commissioners upheld the staff decision, the Yatskos filed their first lawsuit in district court arguing that the city didn’t have the authority to prohibit marijuana business operations.
In October, District Court Judge Dave Grubich agreed and ordered the city to process the Yatsko’s SIC application and that the city couldn’t prohibit marijuana operations outright.
In September, the city commission adopted a new zoning ordinance that allowed marijuana operations only within light and heavy industrial districts in the city limits.
As a result of Grubich’s ruling, that ordinance went into effect immediately.
In November, Great Falls voters opted to allow marijuana operations in the city, meaning the new ordinance remained in effect.
City staff processed and denied the Yatsko’s SIC application since their property on 10th Avenue South is in a commercial district, where marijuana operations are not allowed under the new zoning code.
The Yatsko’s argue in their new lawsuit that if the city had processed their application when it was submitted, before the new ordinance went into effect, they would have been able to operate as a nonconforming use.
In his October order, Grubich wrote that state law allows the regulation of a marijuana business operation, but “it does not allow for an interpretation which gives the city authority to regulate all marijuana businesses out of existence by completely prohibiting it.”