By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News
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Kurt Jafay has applied with Clallam County for a permit to turn the shuttered school at 166 Lake Farm Road into a marijuana production and processing facility, with 12 greenhouses for growing pot built on its former playfields.
“It's not a school anymore,” Jafay said. “This has been a vacant building for a number of years.”
According to Clallam County records, the school district applied for a conditional-use permit to turn the school into a marijuana factory Aug. 4.
But it was Jafay who filed the application.
The district is still the building's official owner because of a 180-day feasibility contingency inserted to allow Jafay to determine whether he could do with the building what he wanted.
“We have an application to basically utilize the former school building site for marijuana production and processing,” said Steven Grey, assistant director of Clallam County's community development department.
Despite the district being listed as the applicant, school officials say they are not planning to get into the pot business.
“We're not growing marijuana,” School Board member Lonnie Linn said.
The school in May signed a purchase and sale agreement with Jafay for the school.
“We didn't realize what he was doing with it,” Linn said.
Jafay never told school district officials he intended to use the school to grow and process recreational marijuana, which was legalized by the November 2012-approved Initiative 502.
“I know we were happy to just have a buyer,” Linn said.
Jafay agreed to pay $814,000 for the 9.48-acre school site.
“Nobody else had the money to buy it or a real use for it,” Jafay said.
“The school district needs money, and this is a perfect opportunity to take an old, unused, run-down building and have it restored.
“It will be a beautiful building, and it won't cost a dime of taxpayer money to maintain.”
The Port Angeles School District closed Fairview Elementary in 2007 because of declining enrollment.
Jafay has applied to the state Liquor Control Board for a license to grow recreational marijuana, though he would not say the name of the business under which he applied.
Jafay said he didn't feel there was a reason to tell the school he wanted Fairview for a marijuana facility.
“What I had in mind was a legal business,” Jafay said.
“So there was no reason really to go into it if I'm not doing anything illegal.”
In March 2013, the School Board put the property on the market, at least partially to help fund the planned replacement of aging schools in the district.
The Fairview property was appraised at $904,000 in February 2013.
Jafay said it was a “win-win” for the community.
“At the end of the day, we're providing needed jobs; we're providing new state tax revenues; we're providing — now — property tax revenues that weren't there because the school never had to pay any taxes,” Jafay said.
Grey said the county has not begun processing the permit request since it is currently dealing with several permit applications from prospective pot growers.
Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reporter Jeremy Schwartz contributed to this report.