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City Commissioners adopt new sign and marijuana ordinances

Thursday, August 12, 2021 - The Sallisaw Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a new sign ordinance at their regular monthly meeting Monday.

The ordinance is intended to regulate rules for citizens who post signs in Sallisaw city limits. “A lot of (the new policy) is simple, common-sense guidance,” City Manager Keith Skelton said. Basically, he noted, residents cannot put up any signs that interfere with traffic flow or limit visibility for drivers.

“The big thing to remember (about the ordinance) is that we have to keep the roadway clear,” Sallisaw Mayor Ernie Martens said. Generally, the right-of-way is about 12 feet off the edge of the road on a curbed street, while on uncurbed roads, that distance is 13 feet.

Commissioner Josh Bailey raised concerns about real estate signs or other signs on personal property. Skelton said that in those cases, as long as the sign isn't sexually oriented or advertising medical marijuana and if the sign doesn't interfere with traffic or the right-of-way, “you should be OK,” Skelton said.

Once posted, signs should be removed as soon as possible, Skelton said. Political signs must be removed within 14 days of the election. Skelton also said residents will not be required to get permits for political or garage sale signs placed on personal property as long as the property owners grant permission to post the signs and as long as the right-of-way is respected. Portable signs, including wind sock signs, are also allowed, as long as the same conditions are met. Nonprofit businesses are exempt from the measure, Skelton said, including churches holding garage sales or other similar situations.

Signs for transient merchants, those who come to Sallisaw to sell their products for only a few days at a time, was also on the commissioners' agenda. The key issue, Skelton said, is to make sure those itinerant businesses file the proper paperwork to ensure sales taxes they earn are returned to city coffers.

The council also approved the addition of a mass communication system that will allow city staff to inform utility customers of upcoming bill due dates, planned outages, cut-off notices and more. The measure passed on a unanimous vote. Customers will have the right to opt out of using the system if they wish, Skelton said.

Commissioners also approved new rules for medical marijuana dispensaries in city limits. Skelton said city staff had reviewed state laws, Sallisaw laws and checked with other Sooner State municipalities to revamp the city's existing rules. Skelton said he discovered a “loophole” in the statutes because state law only considers retail medical marijuana businesses. The city's rule revisions include regulation for grow facilities, processing sites, distributors and storage facilities as well as retail sites. Skelton said existing medical marijuana production sites will not be affected by the new rules. Those facilities can still apply annually for the necessary permits.

The amended ordinance would prohibit marijuana growing, processing, distribution, wholesale or storage facilities from being licensed within the city's municipal boundaries as of August 10. The amended ordinance would not apply to retail marijuana businesses such as dispensaries. Marijuana establishment permits will not be granted for the downtown area.

The amended ordinance will not apply to established grow operations or those already in the application process, Skelton said.

A second marijuana related ordinance was also amended. The amendment allows the city to revoke or suspend city licenses if the state issued license has been revoked or suspended.

The commissioners also approved an engineering contract with Neel, Harvel and Associates in the amount of $38,700, for services relating to improvements on the city's sanitary sewer system. The panel also approved a final change order for improvements at the airport fuel farm. Skelton said that project is now complete.

Skelton discussed COVID-19 cases among city staff. He said five people have tested positive in just the past few days, which has forced additional staff members to go into quarantine. “If this continues,” he said, “we will probably reinstate safety protocols.” Skelton said about 30 percent of the city staff is currently vaccinated. He urged city employees to do their research and seriously consider getting the shot. “The only way to stop it,” he said, “is to wear masks and vaccinate.”

Laura Brown, KXMX Staff Writer

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