Commission denies variance for medical cannabis cultivation

By Cathy Nelson

HOT SPRINGS – The Fall River County commissioners voted against the request by the Dakota Investment Group LLC for a variance relating to granting a medical cannabis cultivation license, when they met on January 5.

Erica Merchant, who is a member of the investment group, is seeking the variance along with several other members of the group. The commissioners turned down the request on Dec. 1, 2022, because the required sign had not been posted on the property near Smithwick. The commissioners wanted to make sure all the requirements of Ordinance #2021-01 were fulfilled.

On Jan. 5, 2023, attorney Garland Goff of Custer spoke to the commissioners on behalf of Merchant and the investment group. He explained that the applicants had, since the Dec. 1 meeting, hired him as their attorney and were willing to adhere to all the requirements of the ordinance. He stated in a letter written to States Attorney Lance Russell dated Dec. 27, 2022, that he had been hired “after the fact” and that he was trying to remedy the situation for his clients. He said his clients had two options. One option was that the clients could reapply after one year, unless the commissioners determine the circumstances surrounding the request have substantially changed. He said the circumstances had changed because the issues related to the denial were based on procedural issues and not directly based on the merits of the application; that the applicants have retained an attorney to guide them through the process; and that the former procedural issues will be addressed, including the sign, which is a substantial change in the circumstances surrounding the application.

Goff asked that his clients be allowed to reapply for the variance and then “we can address the procedural issues and meet those requirements, especially the sign requirement.” He said that if the commissioners allowed his clients to reapply now, he would not file an appeal with the Circuit Court based on the statute of limitations.

Before the commissioners voted, Kim Allen and Robin Tierney, who are both residents of rural Oral, Mike Molitor of Oelrichs, and Kevin Dalton of Hot Springs, spoke to commissioners asking them not to grant the variance.

When the motion was made to allow the variance, all five commissioners voted ‘no.’

On February 1, State’s Attorney Russell will present two amended drafts of the ordinance for cannabis establishments. A public reading will be held at that time. The paper will carry a ten-day notice of the ordinance then the commissioners can make changes, Russell said. The commissioners approved a public hearing for February 1.

In other business, county treasurer Teresa Pullen reported that her office is preparing a number of parcels of property for a tax deed auction sometime after January 14. Eight of the parcels are in Edgemont, three in Hot Springs, one in Oelrichs, and one in the county. She said they have 43 tax deeds, 17 of which are new this year. She also said there are 54 mobile home distress warrants for the sheriff to collect, some have 10 to 12 years of back taxes. Pullen also asked if her office could collect the court-appointed tax fees instead of the auditor’s office. The commissioners agreed. Susan Henderson, who was in the audience, asked Pullen about the old Oxnard Hotel in Edgemont. Pullen said the City of Edgemont has to determine whether it wants to tear down the hotel.

The commissioners voted on several routine items for the first of the year. Joe Falkenburg was voted as chairman of the commission, and Deb Russell as vice chair. The commission meetings were set for the first and third Thursdays of each month. The Fall River County Herald-Star was voted the official newspaper. The official depositories are First Interstate Bank, First National Bank of Lead, Black Hills Federal Credit Union, Black Hills Community Bank, Liberty National Bank, Schwab Treasury. Prisoner care was set at $95 and $120 a day. Monument Health is the health care facility for the jail. Tina Norton is the inmate contract nurse. The commissioners were appointed to the various boards in the county.

Fall River County Herald Star

EDGEMONT OFFICE: 410 2nd Avenue   Edgemont, SD 57735-0660 | 605.662.7201
HOT SPRINGS OFFICE: 334 S. Chicago St.  Hot Springs, SD 57747 | 605.745.3930
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