Carson’s leaders take on pot, tax

Pot and property tax grabbed center stage Thursday at Carson City’s Board of Supervisors meeting, but the curtain may come down early on the actions taken.

The board adopted a 180-day moratorium on local zoning, licensing and related oversight issues regarding medical marijuana, but claimed it wasn’t a delaying maneuver. Board members also acted on a preliminary property tax matter, dividing 3-2 to pass a motion that would set the rate for state reporting and budget deliberation purposes at $3.54 per $100 assessed value. It would drop the tax two cents if it stayed there.

Supervisor Brad Bonkowski was instrumental in both matters, telling medical marijuana supporters why the moratorium wasn’t stalling, and putting forth the motion to shave the property-tax rate by two cents for discussion purposes as fiscal year 2014-15 budget deliberations get started. On the moratorium, he joined other supporters saying it’s about process rather than delay.

“The issue is to be prepared,” he said, noting the moratorium is for up to 180 days, with another 60 days possible, not a minimum of 180 days. City ordinances await state regulations expected April 1. Community Development Director Lee Plemel also said staff work on local oversight ordinances would proceed apace as information comes in, but board action should await that staff process.

The board and staff also keyed on remarks from Rebecca Gasca of Sparks, who has tracked the issue at the state level and deals with parties interested in starting medical marijuana businesses. She said the 10-day window for state applications, after regulations are complete, could come in late summer.

But Dorea Shoemaker of Incline Village, who said she has a health and wellness center there, testified a state constitutional amendment allowing medical marijuana was approved by voters 14 years ago and 4,963 medical marijuana card holders already exist.

“There’s no need for a 180-day moratorium,” she said.

A side show issue developed as District Attorney Neil Rombardo said the state’s bar association has warned attorneys may face disbarment problems if advice is given on marijuana matters while it is still illegal at the federal level. Rombardo said he might be able to give advice only on indirectly related matters, by “splitting hairs,” offering up a hypothetical scenario.

“I’m advising him on land use,” he said. “I’m not advising him on medical marijuana.”

Supervisor John McKenna noted that Carson City could decide against allowing medical marijuana purveyors in the city and, as he has on other issues, indicated a vote of the people would be best. But he, like other board members, separated that from the discussion on preparing for zoning and related issues that would result if sales are allowed here.

Finance Director Nick Providenti gave an early overview of budget matters, including the property tax, and recommended retention of the $3.56 level. He said next year’s spending blueprint will again be tight and cutting tax levels could lead to cutting staff and services.

MeKenna suggested doing the numbers based on a $3.46 rate, but later the board went for Bonkowski’s $3.54 figure for preliminary state reporting and staff work.

Mayor Robert Crowell said he preferred sticking with $3.56 and Supervisor Karen Abowd joined him in voting against the motion, but McKenna and Supervisor Jim Shirk joined Bonkowski to forge the majority.


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