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City council again delays vote on medical marijuana in Billings, - KTVQ.com | Q2 | Continuous News Coverage | Billings, MT

City council again delays vote on medical marijuana in Billings, votes no on pigs as pets

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BILLINGS - Billings city council members once again delayed, in a second and final reading, the issue of medical marijuana within city limits.

The new ordinance aimed to update language to include the passage of Senate Bill 233 allowing medical marijuana within the state. However the city of Billings would not allow land permit usage, or the issuing of business licenses, for anything that violated federal law, which includes medical marijuana.

Several spoke against the ordinance, saying the decision makes it difficult for them to receive their medicine. 

Of the 18 who testified against the council's decision, only one spoke in favor.

With the dispensaries possibly moving out to rural areas of Yellowstone County, the city would not allow the transport or delivery of medical marijuana.

Councilman Rich McFadden amended the motion to provide a "grandfather clause" to two existing dispensaries already operating within city limits, although the businesses operating now are currently violating city code.

A Billings city attorney suggested the amendment be looked at fully before passage because it significantly changes the ordinance language.

The council voted 6-5 to delay and reconsider the issue, and city staff will look into allowing current operating dispensaries to continue business.

Mayor Tom Hanel spoke against the motion, saying that changes need to occur from the "federal government down."

"We are not in position as a city council to make those types of changes," Hanel said. 

Council members Brent Cromley, Angela Cimmino, McFadden, Ryan Sullivan, Dick Clark and Shaun Brown voted in favor.

Council members Mike Yakawich, Larry Brewster, Chris Friedel, Al Swanson, and Hanel voted no.

The issue will be brought up in a work session Oct. 16 for action on Nov. 13.

Snow-plowing residential streets

The city of Billings received record snow in the past few winters. With 740 lane miles of local streets, council approved snow plowing of residential streets by a private contractor.

Council approved the contract to CMG Construction not to exceed $400,000. The issue will be required to be addressed each year.

Wastewater treatment plant pipeline emergency

The city approved $125,000 to repair a 42-inch wastewater pipeline at the City Wastewater Treatment Plant. 

It began leaking severely within the last week and was removed from service to prevent flooding and potential damage to other plant utilities.

Babcock Theatre's future

The city agreed to purchase the historic Babcock building after years of improvement work.

The transfer agreement includes the acquisition of a green room and associated personal property for both at a cost of $127,977.

Three entities, including the Downtown Billings Partnership (DBP) and The Babcock, LLC, entered into a previous development agreement in September 2008, in which the city was to receive title to the theater in exchange for the city and the downtown group approving a tax increment financing grant of $1.9 million to The Babcock LLC for the improvement of the historic Babcock Building. 

The theater originally was scheduled to be transferred to the city by April 1, 2016, but that was delayed to allow The Babcock LLC to take full advantage of historic preservation tax credits.

The proposed costs of $127,977 include the following:

Green room estimated value: $63,249
Green room personal property and improvements: $48,648
Theater personal property: $16,080

Pigs as pets ordinance

After months of discussion this year, council voted down allowing pigs as pets within city limits.

It would have established a $25 annual fee with certain restrictions, requiring it be under 125 pounds, be spay or neutered, as well as vaccinated.

Council members Cromley, Yakawich, Cimmino, McFadden, and Swanson voted in favor.

Council members Brewster, Friedel, Sullivan, Clark, Brown, and Mayor Hanel voted against the ordinance.

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