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Covington commission starts discussion about legalizing sale of medical marijuana; other business

By Ryan Clark
NKyTribune reporter

The issue is coming up at the Covington commission meetings, so it might as well be on everyone’s radar. That was the message city Commissioners discussed when they met at their regularly scheduled caucus meeting in City Hall.

The topic? Medical marijuana.

“We all got this memo from (the Planning and Development Services of Kenton County) where at the end of this year, the city is going to have to make up its mind on medical marijuana,” Mayor Joseph U. Meyer said. “Whether we want to legalize its sale in the city, and so we have to go through a pretty significant rezoning process that we all need to be aware of — and that is an extensive, lengthy process.”

Meyer also noted that similar legislation was adopted last year dealing with sober living facilities, and those rules go into effect July 1.

“The city’s ordinance needs to be updated to reflect the new rules,” Meyer said. “All of the sober living facilities have to meet higher standards and be registered with the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services, so it’ll be nice in the sense that it will enable us to get straight answers on how many legitimate sober living facilities are in this city.”

But Meyer wanted to keep the focus on the cannabis. How did everyone feel about it?

“We’re real close to our friends north of the river, who have recreational marijuana that’s legal starting soon,” he said.

PDS has recommended that multiple cities get together and develop common standards.

“Then the zoning issues … we have to have our staff look at it in terms of the neighborhood development code,” Meyer said.

The commission and staff agreed that they must discuss whether it is legal, and if it is, where it can be sold.

“I look forward to the discussion,” commissioner Ron Washington said.

“I guess we have to organize a discussion,” Meyer said.

Firefighters to be hired

Commissioners heard a proposal by Fire Chief Corey Deye to hire nine new firefighters, which would put the total number to 119, and keep the department eligible for their SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response) FEMA grant.

The Fire Department actually budgets for 122, so each of the hires are in the city budget, Deye said.

Commissioners placed the request on next week’s consent agenda.

Public Comment Ordinance

Commissioners were going to discuss an amendment for the Public Comment Ordinance they’ve been discussing, but Commissioner Tim Downing, who proposed the amendment, was absent.

Instead, Mayor Meyer suggested to put the amendment consideration on the regular agenda for next week’s meeting.

Last week, Commissioners heard the first reading of an ordinance regarding a code of conduct for public comments, including, among other things: the ability to have like-minded groups choose one representative to speak; the ability to have security remove speakers if they exhibit disruptive behavior, and rules about speakers not using hateful language or bullying tactics.

However, the proposed ordinance has gotten pushback from some members of the community.

Last month, the Mayor brought up some of these ideas after dozens of residents had come out over the course of several months to ask commissioners to support a resolution detailing a ceasefire in Gaza. In some of those meetings, the crowds became more boisterous, and in at least one case, a speaker was asked to leave the room after he kept shouting without being recognized.

The ordinance was scheduled to have a second reading and vote next week.

Hirings, Promotions, Terminations

Commissioners heard these proposals:

• Hiring — Luke McDonnell, Police Officer, Police Department
Promotion – Greg Stacy, Parks and Recreation Manager, Neighborhood Services Department

• Termination – Sandy Shoemaker, Finance Technician, Finance Department

All were placed on next week’s consent agenda.

Short-term rentals

Commissioners heard a proposed ordinance change for short-term rentals, revising density limits and expanding appeals rights related to the grant of a license.

The city eliminated the conditional use and went to a limited use including neighborhoods, making it a combination of historic districts and neighborhoods with density limits.

The ordinance will get a first reading next week.

Finance audit

Mayor Meyer announced that a forthcoming presentation on the city’s latest financial audit will reveal some good information.

“We have the audit in hand and (there’s) cause for great celebration,” he said. “There are no findings in the audit — no significant deficiencies. It’s the first time in a long time that the city has had that and it’s a cause for great celebration …. I hope it’s a new standard that will be met annually.”

Downing absent

Commissioner Tim Downing was absent from Tuesday’s meeting.

Next Meeting

The next regularly scheduled Covington Commission meeting will be a legislative meeting held at 6 p.m., April 23, at the City Building at 20 W. Pike St. in Covington. The meetings can be followed live on Fioptics channel 815, Spectrum channel 203, the Telecommunications Board of Northern Kentucky (TBNK) website, the TBNK Facebook page @TBNKonline, and the TBNK Roku channels.

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