Five applicants have filed paperwork in a quest to be awarded a medical-marijuana-dispensary license in northwest Columbus, according to Anthony J. Celebrezze III, assistant director of the Columbus Department of Building and Zoning Services.

Celebrezze said at the Dec. 6 meeting of the Northwest Civic Association that four of those applications are for the same site.

HR Plaza LLC, owner of the Hayden Run Plaza where Bethel Road becomes Hayden Road, has agreed to hold a portion of the parking lot open for a potential dispensary from four applicants, none of whom are guaranteed getting one of the potentially five licenses allotted for Franklin County, Celebrezze told the board of trustees.

The other potential dispensary site in the neighborhood is at the intersection of Kenny and Old Henderson roads, according to Celebrezze.

"We could have none, but the maximum is two?" asked Marilyn Goodman, chairwoman of the NWCA's graphics and zoning committee.

Celebrezze confirmed Goodman's assumption.

"Basically what you're saying is one of these dispensaries couldn't go into a strip mall?" asked John Fortkamp, an NWCA trustee.

Celebrezze, however, said medical-marijuana dispensaries can operate in any location with the proper zoning, including strip shopping centers, as long as a secure room can be created inside.

As of last week, city officials had received 89 requests for applications to open medical-marijuana dispensaries and 69 of them had been completed and submitted, Celebrezze said.

"We can have up to five (dispensaries in Columbus)," Celebrezze said. "We may not get five. I don't know."

The timing of granting licenses also is up in the air, he said.

"The state hasn't given us any indication on when they're going to do that," Celebrezze said. "It could be four or five months until we see anything."

The lone role for city officials regarding sites for dispensaries is to ensure they meet zoning requirements, he said.

Because "pot shops" arent found in the zoning code, Columbus officials decided they can be in any location zoned C-4, Celebrezze said.

Celebrezze also said in fielding calls from people with dreams of having a medical-marijuana dispensary, he quickly can tell which ones are unlikely to have those dreams come true.

"We've had some people contact me -- I'm surprised they can tie their shoes," he said.

In addition to making certain proposed dispensary sites meet the zoning requirement, Celebrezze said, city officials also are determining if suggested locations meet state mandates for being at least 500 feet from schools, parks, day care centers and addiction-treatment facilities.

The definition of addiction treatment facilities is vague, Celebrezze said, raising the issue of whether a counselor treating one patient for an addiction would be included. By September, Ohioans with qualifying health conditions are supposed to be able to buy medical marijuana.

House Bill 523, which was approved last year and sets up a highly regulated "seed-to-sale" system for growing, processing, testing and dispensing marijuana for people with any of 20 specified medical diseases and conditions. Patients 21 years old and older will be able to get a recommendation from a physician for a 90-day supply of marijuana edibles, patches, oils, tinctures and plant material.

State records indicate 60 marijuana dispensaries, to be located throughout the state, will be selected next year.

The Columbus Dispatch staff writer Alan Johnson contributed to this story.