By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News
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“I don’t think a marijuana production facility should take the place of the school I wanted my son to go to,” said Heidi Kaas, who moved to the neighborhood a year before the Port Angeles School District closed the school in 2007.
More than 70 residents of the rural residential neighborhood surrounding the property at 166 Lake Farm Road gathered in the Fairview Grange Hall on Thursday night in response to a plan to turn the former school into a marijuana production and processing facility.
Kurt Jafay of Sequim has applied with Clallam County for a conditional-use permit to use the 9.48-acre site as a growing and processing facility.
He wants to build 12 greenhouses for growing marijuana on its former playfields.
“I will be investing in this neighborhood. I will be providing jobs in a business that’s regulated, taxed and monitored 24/7,” Jafay told the neighbors.
“You won’t even know we’re in there, except the building will be maintained, providing jobs and on the tax rolls.”
A hearing on the permit is slated for Oct. 8, but the county has not begun processing the permit request since it is currently dealing with several permit applications from prospective pot growers.
The Port Angeles School District closed Fairview Elementary because of declining enrollment. Jafay and district officials agreed to a $814,000 purchase price for the site in May.
Residents feared turning the school into a marijuana factory would bring to their neighborhood increased crime and worried about environmental impacts.
The Fairview neighbors were joined Thursday by residents of the Timberline neighborhood, who were vocal in their opposition to a request by brothers Travis and Ryan Palmer to site a marijuana growing and production facility on Cassidy Road.
Saying the Palmers’ plan did not fit the character of that neighborhood, Clallam County Hearings Examiner Mark Nichols upheld Wednesday a county denial of a conditional-use permit for the Palmers’ place.
“Do not make this about pot,” advised Brad Bucher. “Learn the county’s comprehensive plan, know what it says and know what it says about your neighborhood.
“It is your bible of victory.”
He advised the residents to flood county planners and lawmakers with comments asking them to deny Jafay’s permit.
The neighborhood is zoned neighborhood conservation, which is intended to keep rural neighborhoods rural.
Jafay said his use of the property will have less impacts than were produced when the building was used as a school, with fewer cars, less noise and regular upkeep.
School district officials could not be reached for comment Friday.
The district is still the building’s official owner and is thus listed as the applicant for the county permit because of a 180-day feasibility contingency inserted to allow Jafay to determine whether he would be allowed to put the site to use as he intends to do.
Jafay did not tell 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.
He has applied for a license from the State Liquor Control Board but has not been approved for one.
Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.