Sidney City Council listened to a request from Susie and Steve Cavanaugh with Sunrise Subdivision to begin growing hemp on the property at the Aug. 5 meeting.

“We have 90 acres over there at Sunrise Village that are part of the undeveloped area for future development,” Steve said. “We’ve been doing a little research on the hemp industry and thought, well, we’ll give it a shot.”

Steve said they would harvest the hemp for CBD oil.

“It’s not for pot,” Susie said.

The couple asked city council if there was anything prohibiting them from planting hemp on the property, which currently grows wheat. Tom Kalil, city attorney, said the property is currently zoned as R2 residential, which prohibits crop growth on the land.

“The only thing that’s been approved right now is phase one. The other stuff is all on paper,” Susie said.

Kalil told the couple they could apply for a zone change to allow for crops, but they would need to apply for a rezoning again if they decided to finish the subdivision.

“You would have to rezone it and it would have to meet the standards at that time,” Greg Anderson with Sidney building department said.

The land is currently being farmed for wheat and Susie asked council if they were not actually permitted to allow farming there under the current zoning restrictions. Anderson said the crop currently on the land is considered a cover crop, serving as weed and dust control, which is allowed on the property. A cash crop like hemp would not be considered a cover crop.

“Basically a cover crop isn’t a cash crop. They may sell it, but it’s not planted as cash crop. It’s planted just to cover the land,” Anderson said.

Kalil and council told the couple if they wished to grow hemp, they need to apply for a zone change or a variance, which would allow for a cash crop and wouldn’t require zone changes back and forth.

“A variance is usually permanent,” city clerk/treasurer Jessica Redfield said. “It goes to the board of adjustments, it has to be notified for public hearing, I have to send notice to all of the surrounding properties and then it goes before the zoning board. Then the zoning board makes a recommendation and it comes before city council. It’s a month and a half-long process.”

The Cavanaughs agreed to begin paperwork on the variance. Before leaving the meeting, Bill Linder, a citizen in attendance, asked city council about the state’s new laws concerning property phases.

“Did not the Legislature in the last Legislative session do away with phases?” Linder asked. “They will have to go through the planning process again for anything they need to do. I think it would not hurt for you to check into that for the city planning.”

Linder suggested council should check with the city planner before allowing the variance.

“I’m kind of playing the devil’s advocate here,” he said. “I don’t want to see them get into the middle of something that they shouldn’t be in the middle of because of the changes made in the last Legislative session.”

Mayor Rick Norby agreed it was something council would research.

In other news:

Thomas Kalil was given a contract to remain as the city attorney after he left Pippin Law Firm in Williston, North Dakota, to begin his own private firm. The contract allowed the city to stay with Pippin or stay with Kalil. City council member Tami Christensen made the motion to stay with Kalil and said, “I think with all the things we have going on, we’d be foolish to switch.”

Ordinance 579 was approved by council, which updates the flood plain regulations to reflect FEMA’s.

Draw 11 for the Waste Water Treatment Plant, now in phase three, was approved in the amount of $345,910.54.

Sidney Chief of Police Frank DiFonzo gave his reports from June and July to council. In June, 40 adults were arrested, 80 adults were charged (12 felonies, 57 misdemeanors, 11 “other”), 109 traffic/criminal citations issued, 531 calls for service occurred, five animals were impounded and 27.5 hours of overtime were worked. For July, DiFonzo’s report stated 33 adults were arrested, 49 charged (11 felonies, 28 misdemeanors, 10 “other”), 95 traffic/criminal citations issued, 546 calls for service occurred and 77.75 hours of overtime worked. Of those overtime hours, 63.75 of them were attributed to “homicide related overtime.”

City council member Kysa Rasmussen was approached by a teacher who asked permission to use the park for a science-based interactive educational experience in the park, with rocket launches and egg drops. City council reversed that decision with a motion to approve the request, which carried.

Molly Davidson, a storm water engineer, introduced herself to council as a potential candidate to do a storm water study for Sidney. Several solicitations are being considered for the study.

City council entered a closed executive session to discuss the open records request made by the Sidney Herald concerning the internal investigation reports for Sidney Police Department Officer Alex Roselles. Kalil told the Sidney Herald the executive session was held under the premise of subsection (4)(a) of Montana Code Annotated 2-3-203, wherein a meeting may be closed to discuss strategy to be followed with respect to litigation.

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