PORT ANGELES — A Port Angeles restaurant owner who is facing probable felonies for allegedly manufacturing and processing thousands of marijuana plants illegally withdrew his land-use permit Tuesday afternoon to legally grow and process cannabis — four days after it was recommended for approval.
Clallam County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Nichols said late Tuesday afternoon he anticipates filing criminal charges later this week against Dong Mai of Port Angeles, who owns five parcels in the county that were raided late last year.
“We’ve been in communication with Mr. Mai’s counsel,” Nichols said, referring to Port Angeles lawyer Stan Myers.
“We have given him a courtesy heads-up so that he is aware.”
Nichols would not comment on the charges he will file.
Nichols has been reviewing a recommendation from the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office that Mai should be charged with five counts of illegally manufacturing marijuana and five counts of unlawful use of a building for drug purposes.
The Class C felonies are punishable by up to five years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.
The Dec. 7-8 Olympic Peninsula Narcotics Enforcement Team operation was preceded by at least three years of investigation, Sheriff Bill Benedict said in an earlier interview.
Mai was not arrested while the investigation continued, the Sheriff’s Office said following the operation.
The city Department of Community and Economic Development had issued the recommendation Friday that Dong Mai’s conditional use permit application to legally grow marijuana should move forward when Julie Gardiner of Port Angeles, representing Mai for the permit, removed the application from consideration Tuesday afternoon.
A hearing examiner was scheduled to consider the conditional-use permit application at a virtual public hearing at 10 a.m. Friday and make a decision within 10 days of the close of the public hearing.
“I am writing to you to officially withdraw the CUP- 20-65 application submitted on behalf of Dong Hoa Mai,” Gardiner said in the 2:53 p.m. email, four hours after a message was left for Gardiner for comment about the recommendation.
“The surrounding confusion with the Sheriff and erroneous info from the PDN, etc. has created a hostile environment for Mr. Mai, his wife and 2 grade school children. Please let me know what else you need from our office or Mr. Mai to accomplish the withdrawal,” the email said.
Gardiner and her husband, Port Angeles lawyer Craig Miller, would not comment about the permit and did not return a call for comment to further explain the email.
Mai owns SOHO Properties PNW LLC, which owns the 1.1 acre, 4308 Nicholas Road parcel off the Tumwater Truck Route west of downtown Port Angeles where Mai had wanted to legally operate a hydroponic pot farm-processing operation and eventually triple its size, according to his application.
The parcel, zoned for light industrial uses, was one of the locations where $5 million to $10 million of growing and processed marijuana was confiscated Dec. 7-8, including Diamond Vista Drive, Mai’s address, according to Assessor’s Office property records.
Area law enforcement confiscated 572 plants at Nicholas Road and about 2,500 other plants on four other parcels — including one on Diamond Vista Drive. The officers also confiscated 370 pounds of processed cannabis.
Gardiner said in an earlier interview that Mai did not know marijuana was being grown at the locations and said March 5 that renters who “disappeared overnight” took advantage of him.
“Dong didn’t know them and doesn’t know where they went, and he’s never been charged,” she said.
“He was not the one doing the grow.”
Mai submitted his conditional use permit application three weeks before the OPNET operation, on Nov. 18.
Mai wanted to turn an existing RV repair shop on the parcel into a 4,000-square-foot hydroponic cannabis production facility and, according to his land-use application, wants to consider adding 12,000 square feet of additional space in a new building.
Mai owns or is part owner of 11 properties valued at $2.1 million in Clallam County, including a parcel that includes Songoku Hibachi and Sushi at 134 W. Front St. in Port Angeles, owned by Songoku LLC, which, according to the state Secretary of State’s Office, has been dissolved.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at email@example.com.