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What better place to open a medical marijuana dispensary than next to a sandwich shop that names subs after varieties of pot?

Several businesses had the same idea and even went so far as to secure a letter of intent from the landlord to rent them the commercial space next to the Cheba Hut on South Milton Road.

City officials have rejected one formal zoning application and have informally discouraged others from submitting similar applications, arguing the site is too close to a nearby Montessori preschool on West University Avenue.

City zoning requirements for dispensaries require the businesses to be located at least 500 feet from any school, college, alcohol/drug abuse rehabilitation facility, library, childcare center or park.

But how the city the measures the distance from any of these facilities has come under fire from a local attorney representing various would-be dispensaries, including one business that wanted to open up next door to Cheba Hut.

The city calculates the distance measuring from the parcel boundary of the entire shopping center and Attorney Lee Phillips has asked to the city to measure from where the dispensary would be located.

In the case of the strip mall where the Cheba Hut is located, it is the difference between "yes" and "no" with city officials.

The southern edge of the property is less than 500 feet from the school while the northern edge of where the dispensary wants to be located would be sufficiently far enough away to get city approval.

Phillips says that a dozen different applicants have received a letter of intent from the landlord to rent out the commercial space if they receive a dispensary license from the state later this year.

Because only one dispensary license will be issued for west Flagstaff, the property can issue multiple letters of intent for the same site to different businesses.

A leasing agent for the Sherwood Forest Shopping Center did not immediately return a call for comment.

Phillips sent a letter Thursday asking the city to immediately review the procedures. He noted dispensaries have only until June 30 to obtain the letter from the city confirming that the dispensary location would comply with the zoning ordinance and send it to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

The ADHS is expected to issue by mid-August one license for each of 126 designated areas in Arizona, with two inside the city and another near Flagstaff in the county.

City Manager Kevin Burke said he was aware of the letter sent by Phillips and stated the zoning policies are now being reviewed by planning staff.

At least one other dispensary location was nixed by the city for being too close to a school in the last few weeks.

The city rejected a concept plan to open a dispensary in the Kachina Square Shopping Center on Steves Boulevard because it was too close to the College America campus in the same strip mall.

Only three possible medical marijuana dispensary sites have been approved so far by the city:

-- 4401 N. Highway 89

-- 1110 E. Route 66

-- 2010 E. Route 66

Joe Ferguson can be reached at 556-2253 or

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