By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News
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Ryan Palmer of Lake Tapps, which is near Puyallup in Pierce County, applied to site a recreational marijuana operation that would produce 5,500 square feet of marijuana plant canopy inside a steel building and two greenhouses on 6 acres at 322 Cassidy Road.
Neighbors protesting the proposed grow complex, which would include 8,496 square feet of buildings surrounded by 680 linear feet of 8-foot-tall fence, said it would mar their rural residential neighborhood.
“It's more like a penitentiary than it is a greenhouse,” neighbor Brenda Carpenter said.
A hearing on a conditional-use permit to allow the operation to move forward is scheduled for 11 a.m. Wednesday before Hearings Examiner Mark Nichols in Room 160 of the courthouse, 223 E. Fourth St. in Port Angeles.
Clallam County planners are recommending Nichols deny the permit, a decision for which neighbors take credit.
“If there wasn't a rusty wheel, this would have just gone through without much of an issue,” neighbor Gail Mabbutt said.
Community Development Director Sheila Roark Miller said the county had difficulty regulating marijuana businesses made legal by the 2012-approved Initiative 502 and noted that similar problems were reported in other jurisdictions throughout the state.
“Any time you look at balancing growth in communities and neighborhoods, you run into these situations where people have to try to find common ground,” Roark Miller said.
“When they can't, someone else has to be there to make sure the rules work and fit the community.”
Mary Ellen Winborn, who is challenging Roark Miller for community development director, joined the protestors on Lincoln Street on Tuesday.
Winborn said Roark Miller caused this controversy by not properly planning zones for recreational marijuana growers.
“They had two years to figure this out, and it wasn't until they got all these citizens speaking out against it they do something,” Winborn said.
She said she had not read Palmer's application.
Winborn said Roark Miller has not been fair in developing regulations for the county.
“Land use is so important because people have to know that when it says what you can do in the county codes, you have to be able to depend on that,” Winborn said.
“And then you don't have the community development director in the newspaper all the time.”
As the pickets were going Tuesday morning, Tim Humiston, who represents Canna Organix LLC, a start-up marijuana grower in Carlsborg, spoke to the county commissioners.
Humiston said at least one potential grower has pulled out of the Sequim area because of the county's changing development regulations, which he said cost some 20 jobs.
While testifying on Sequim's pot moratorium at the City Council's meeting Monday night, David Burns said he dropped his application for a permit to site a marijuana grow on Hooker Road after a “nightmare” permitting process.
“First I was told it was a permitted use and I wouldn't need a [conditional-use permit],” said Burns, a planner of 36 years for the city of Lacey.
“After investing almost $60,000 in this, they tell me, 'We've changed our mind.'”
Roark Miller said Burns' initial application was unclear, and when the county asked him about it, he wanted to change the project to a medical marijuana cooperative farm, which the county cannot legally permit.
“I don't know that he's ever been clear in what he wanted to do there,” she said.
Burns has since submitted an application to site a smaller recreational grow, one of five pending conditional-use permit applications the county has for marijuana grows.
The county has approved four conditional-use permits for marijuana grows and has two more that are currently open to public comment.
Commissioners last week said they would be open to reviewing how recreational marijuana businesses are permitted.
Under rules established this spring, Clallam County requires growers and processors who want to site facilities in non-industrial-zoned land to obtain conditional-use permits.
Retail pot shops are allowed without a permit in commercial properties just like any other legal business.
For more information on the county's marijuana rules, visit the county's website, http://tinyurl.com/PDN-countypot.
Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reporter Arwyn Rice contributed to this report.