By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News
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The City Council approved a six-month moratorium on retail licenses in August that is set to expire Feb. 5.
At a meeting of the city Planning Commission on Thursday, Development Services Director Rick Sepler and planner John McDonagh recommended extending the moratorium so the city can determine the best locations and investigate possible zoning changes.
In keeping with last year’s voter-approved Initiative 502, which legalized pot for adults 21 and older, the city will be allowed to license one retail outlet within the city limit.
But its location is uncertain due to the dual requirements of operating within business districts but outside of a 1,000-foot buffer zone around schools, parks and transit centers.
Four areas are currently designated in Port Townsend: downtown and uptown, Upper Sims Way, the area around Jefferson Healthcare and at the corner of Kearney and 19th streets.
Portions of all of these areas are within a buffer zone map created by the city, but the definition of parks as being owned and operated by a public entity could loosen these restrictions, Sepler said.
Areas around Upper Sims Way could be designated as acceptable for retail pot using this formula, he added.
The Planning Commission did not make a formal recommendation to extend the moratorium, but all those present said they agreed in principle with an extension.
“If we do another extension, I would like to see it resolved during that time,” said Monica Mick Hager, commission chair.
“I’ve heard from a lot of people who are waiting to hear what the city is going to say about this.”
The City Council can extend the moratorium with or without Planning Commission input, and can impose a period of no more than six months.
The moratorium can be rescinded while it is in effect if an acceptable plan is developed, Sepler said.
“We don’t want to reinvent the wheel,” he said after the meeting.
“Many other municipalities are developing their own plans, so we can cut and paste to find something that will work for us.”
The application period for marijuana licenses expires Friday. At present, there are none for retail operations within Port Townsend.
Applicants can use a “dummy” address on the initial application but must have a location that fits all criteria before being approved by the Washington State Liquor Control Board as qualified applicants.
Outside of Port Townsend, Jefferson County is allowed three retail outlets.
Of five received, three are in Brinnon, and one each is in Port Hadlock and Chimacum, although the latter is using a dummy address.
All qualified applicants then enter a lottery, with the winner to be awarded the franchise.
The date for the lottery is unscheduled.
Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or firstname.lastname@example.org.