Port Townsend delays decision on zoning rules for medical, recreational marijuana businesses

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — Zoning rules for medical and recreational marijuana businesses still need fine-tuning, the City Council decided this week as it deferred final action on approval of a proposed ordinance.

Several questions still need to be addressed, the council decided Monday during the second reading and consideration of possible approval of the rules. The first reading was July 14.

Approval will be considered at the council’s next meeting at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 4 in council chambers in historic City Hall, 540 Water St.

Action is meant to clarify zoning rules for marijuana in the city limit.

One aspect deals with medical marijuana collective gardens.

Three collective gardens, which can sell only to people with medical authorization, are operating within the city limit.

At first reading, the ordinance included a restriction against medical marijuana locating in a multifamily area, which included duplexes and senior care facilities.

Councilman Bob Gray asked then whether a collective garden could be located in a care facility for the convenience of the residents.

On Monday, the council instructed staff to explore that possibility.

Under the new ordinance, collective gardens would not be allowed within 300 feet of schools or parks, a smaller distance than the 1,000-foot buffer required of recreational businesses.

Each member of a collective would be restricted to five visits per week to minimize neighborhood traffic.

Gardens would be allowed only to grow marijuana and could not use processing practices that involve gas because of the threat of explosions.

In terms of retail, possible changes could be allowing the location of a marijuana shop within the hospital commercial zone and allowing growing or processing of recreational marijuana on Port of Port Townsend property.

If allowed by the city, port management would have to consider whether it would approve locating a business on its property, said John McDonough, city planner.

Port Director Larry Crockett said Tuesday that the location of marijuana businesses on port land “hasn’t been seriously discussed” but that he intended to bring up the topic at the next commissioners’ meeting at 5:30 p.m. today at 333 Benedict St.

Crockett said he will seek advice from the port’s attorneys.

Potential obstacles include accommodating buffers to adjoining parks and that the port regularly receives federal money.

McDonough said opening the hospital commercial district to a future recreational marijuana store would have little impact since the city is only allowed one retail outlet, and that location already has been determined.

This action would be taken to open up possibilities for the future should more outlets be allowed or if the current store wishes to relocate, he said.

The city’s sole retail outlet is presumed to be located at 1433 W. Sims Way.

It will open in September at the earliest, according to its owner, Gracen Hook, who said he is waiting until reasonably priced products are available.

“I already have a successful medical business, so I’m not going to give that up if I don’t have enough reasonably priced product to stay open as a recreational store,” Hook said Monday.

The state Liquor Control Board allotted Jefferson County four retail cannabis stores: one in Port Townsend and three in unincorporated areas.

Clallam County was allowed six retail stores: two in Port Angeles, one in Sequim and three anywhere else.

The first retail pot shop to open on the North Olympic Peninsula is expected to be Sea Change Cannabis at 282332 U.S. Highway 101 in Discovery Bay at 10 a.m. Friday.

According to rules already in place, recreational growing or processing operations within the Port Townsend city limit would first need to satisfy all state requirements.

The city requires locations to be within specific business or commercial zones, according to McDonough.

The Port Townsend Business Park on the south end of town was at first thought to be an area where such businesses could be located, but the city found that a mental health facility, a private business, within the business park was within a state-established buffer that prohibited any such enterprise.

According to the proposed city ordinance, growing activity would have to be in a secure building, and the operation itself could not be visible from any city-owned right of way.

The council also asked staff for more data about the carbon footprint of marijuana operations and whether they use excessive amounts of electricity and water.

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Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or cbermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: July 22. 2014 6:22PM
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