Hearing examiner considers pot permit

Applicants seeking cottage industry in Coyle

PORT TOWNSEND — The Jefferson County hearing examiner is considering a controversial conditional use permit for a marijuana growing and processing operation in Coyle.

Tracy Williamson of Poulsbo has applied for a conditional use permit to operate a cottage industry that would produce and process marijuana on a 5.48-acre site at 9790 Coyle Road in Quilcene.

Fifteen people, most of whom are neighbors who live on Kens Way or Blueberry Hill Drive, spoke in opposition during nearly five hours of testimony before about 40 people Tuesday evening in the Jefferson County Superior Courtroom.

Hearing Examiner Steve Causseaux left the record open through this coming Tuesday for the applicants’ attorneys to respond to closing arguments in writing.

A written decision on the permit will be issued in the future, although Causseaux didn’t offer a timeline Tuesday night.

Causseaux denied a similar application for a proposal on Marrowstone Island in 2017 four months after a June hearing.

Processing, production

The application, filed on behalf of siblings Jessie and Luke Williamson, includes two 5,000-square-foot buildings with 2,000 square feet dedicated to processing and the remainder used for production, according to the county’s Department of Community Development.

It is exempt from review under the state Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) because the buildings are labeled as agricultural and are less than 30,000 square feet, according to county documents.

It also must comply with a number of conditions, including the county’s cottage industry provision, which requires it “shall be operated by at least one full-time, bona fide resident in a single-family residence of the parcel on which the proposed use is being requested,” according to Title 18 of the county’s unified development code.

Project Coordinator David Wayne Johnson, a lead associate planner for the county, recommended approval in a 45-minute presentation highlighted by a noise study in addition to mitigation efforts to control visual impacts and odor.

“We truly believe that once we’re moved in, you will not even know we are here,” Tracy Williamson testified Tuesday.

“When we bought that piece of property, we had full intentions of using the cottage industry to grow marijuana and provide Luke with a future.”

Two people testified in support of the project, including Colum Tinley of Port Townsend, who said he has operated a rural residential growing and processing business with his wife for the past five years.

“The impacts on my neighbors are essentially zero,” he said.

The Williamsons currently own Outback Bud Company, a Tier II producer and processor in Port Townsend, according to the state Liquor and Cannabis Board.

The property is in a light industrial/commercial zone on Eisenbeis Avenue, according to county records.

The Williamsons said they would move their business to Coyle, if their conditional use permit is approved.

A home is under construction on the proposed site on Coyle Road and is scheduled to be complete by May or June, said Dee Boughton, an attorney from Cross Sound Law Group of Poulsbo who represented the Williamsons.

Among those speaking in opposition were Joanmarie Eggert of Quilcene, who said she commuted from Bellevue for 15 years to a place where her heart rate goes down with the sense that she’s home.

“This was never intended to a be a primary residence with a cottage industry,” she said. “It was meant to be a cottage industry all along.”

Chris Wilson, represented by attorney Alex Sidles from Bricklin & Newman LLP of Seattle, argued that property values in areas near marijuana grow operations go down and took exception to the documentation the county provided that “only addresses two of three scenarios.”

Johnson submitted an article as part of the record produced by the National Association of Realtors that found there was little to no negative effect on property value from marijuana businesses.

He also said the county’s conditional use approval criteria “does not expressly take impacts to nearby property values into consideration.”

Others expressed a variety of concerns, including visual impacts, fan noise, possible wastewater pollution, an increase in delivery trucks and smell.

James Olson of Quilcene cited a New York Times story that categorized the smell of marijuana as a “cross between rotten eggs and skunk cabbage.”

“What a dramatic contrast that is in the purity of the air in the Olympic Mountains,” he said.

Bonnie Story of Quilcene said she’s “chilled to the bone” about the precedent the development might set within the rural residential zones in the county, and she said a warehouse and an organic fruit orchard shouldn’t be considered in the same cottage industry definition.

“It constitutes a significant land-use change,” Story said.

Jessie Williamson said she and her brother plan to hand-water plants, and they will capture and reuse the water. She also said they won’t use compost as a waste option.

“Once we’re in, you won’t see us, you won’t hear us, and you won’t smell us,” she said.

Boughton said the proposal fits the rural zoning of the area.

“It’s no different than if someone proposes greenhouses and wants to plant daisies or any other type of flower,” he said. “It’s harvesting and trimming the stock or stems. There’s no difference other than the fact that there is a significant historical stigma.”

Silas provided the closing argument for the opposition and focused on the definition of cottage industry. He argued the conditional use permit should be denied because there isn’t a “full-time, bona fide resident” on the property, the same ruling Causseaux made in the Marrowstone Island proposal.

Silas said the state Liquor and Cannabis Board requires six months of residency to be considered full-time.

“That has to be met now — today — in order to comply,” he said.

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Jefferson County Managing Editor Brian McLean can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 6, or at [email protected].

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