By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News
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The siting of three marijuana businesses has been approved with conditional-use permits, and that would be the case for future pot businesses under a plan suggested to the county’s Planning Commission last week by Kevin LoPiccolo, long range planning manager in the county’s Department of Community Development.
“A conditional-use permit would force the applicant to prove the development has no reasonable adverse impacts,” LoPiccolo said.
After three meetings to discuss pot planning, commissioners said they wanted to review the county’s conditional-use requirements before approving it as the primary zoning restriction.
“I’m not ready to say yes, no or maybe at this point,” Commissioner Gary Gleason of Port Angeles said.
The Planning Commission has been tasked with developing rules regarding the location of pot growers, processors and retailers in the wake of Initiative 502, which voters passed in November 2012 to legalize recreational marijuana.
Clallam County voters gave the measure 55 percent approval.
Planners are eyeing pot production and processing as more of an industrial activity, LoPiccolo said, which would limit the zones in which it would be allowed.
LoPiccolo said the conditional-use approach would require potential pot businesses to apply through the county, which would then notify neighbors in all but a few zones.
“In general, any business that changes traffic or requires lighting or fencing or produces odors doesn’t fit in residential zones,” LoPiccolo said.
He added that state officials would be charged with making sure such businesses comply with a requirement that they be at least 1,000 feet away from schools, libraries, parks and other places where children congregate.
Producers and processors would be permitted outright in the 15 zones that allow industrial development, he said.
Retail pot shops would be permitted in zones that allow commercial developments.
In any other zone, pot businesses would require review by county planners.
Chuck Hagenian told the Planning Commission that a potential pot business had eyed a vacant 5-acre parcel next to his home in a rural neighborhood north of Sequim.
“It just doesn’t make sense to have a warehouse with concertina fence in the middle of a neighborhood,” he said.
Because of I-502 requirements about security, regular inspections and licensing of pot business, LoPiccolo said marijuana growing would be “different than other types of agriculture.”
County code allows agriculture in most zones without any permits.
Pot growers and processors also would not fit within the county’s definition of commercial greenhouses, which are defined as a structure devoted to cultivation of plants.
“The whole plant, not portions thereof,” LoPiccolo said.
Most marijuana growers pluck the buds of the plant and process them for consumption, LoPiccolo said.
“I have a feeling we’re just about on the right track,” Gleason said. “We’re not just letting it outright, nor are we being too restrictive.”
In November, the county approved conditional-use permits that would allow Thomas Ash to build commercial greenhouses on Shore Road and Marine Drive.
Ash applied for production permits from the Washington State Liquor Control Board under the name Tropic Grow.
His permit is pending, according to the liquor board.
Six retail stores were allotted for unincorporated Clallam County; four in Jefferson County. There is no limit on the number of growers or processors that will be licensed, though statewide production has been capped.
Sequim and Port Townsend have put moratoria on allowing pot businesses to set up shop in their city limits.