Hearings examiner denies permit for Carlsborg marijuana growing, processing operation

PORT ANGELES –– Clallam County Hearings Examiner Mark Nichols has affirmed a planning department decision to deny a conditional-use permit for a marijuana growing and processing facility in a rural neighborhood west of Carlsborg.

Nichols ruled Wednesday that the tier two recreational marijuana production facility planned by brothers Ryan and Travis Palmer of Tacoma did not fit within the low-density residential zone designed by Clallam County’s code to be protected for its “rural character.”

“The proposed action would result in the addition of three structures on a scale that dwarfs surrounding low density rural residential development,” Nichols wrote.

“This level of development is inconsistent with land uses envisioned within rural areas.

“The primary use of land in rural areas should be for rural residential and small-scale resource production or extraction uses,” Nichols said, citing Clallam County code.

The Palmers wanted to use 5,500 square feet of the facility to grow cannabis.

The plans called for 8,496 square feet of buildings — a steel building and two greenhouses — on 6 acres. The additional space is for processing and office functions.

Recreational marijuana was made legal in Washington state by the November 2012 passage of Initiative 502.

Senior Planner Greg Ballard recommended the permit application be denied, saying it would have adverse impacts on water resources and rural aesthetic; produce light pollution, odors and dust; and pose security issues.

Neighbors agreed, and more than 100 of them turned out to speak against the Palmers’ cannabis factory at an Aug. 13 hearing before Nichols in the Clallam County Courthouse.

Nichols, who is running against Will Payne, appointed prosecuting attorney, to be Clallam County’s next prosecuting attorney, said those neighbors’ vocal and large presence at the hearing factored into his decision.

“While community displeasure cannot be the basis of a permit denial, the Hearing Examiner may nonetheless afford substantial weight to community opposition,” Nichols wrote. “The Hearing Examiner does so here.”

The displeased neighbors hailed Nichols’ decision, saying they protected their neighborhood from becoming an “industrial area.”

“We’re all absolutely elated. We’ve established a precedent,” said Kathryn McCready, who delivered a PowerPoint presentation summarizing the neighbors’ concerns about the operation at the hearing.

“It wasn’t a residence, and it wasn’t agricultural. It just didn’t fit in our neighborhood.”

For the Palmers, the decision leaves an uncertain future.

“I don’t know where we go with this now,” Travis Palmer said.

“We have to kind of regroup and figure out what’s next.”

The Palmers have 14 days to appeal.

The facility has not been licensed by the state Liquor Control Board, which regulates the recreational marijuana market.

Clallam County voters gave the initiative that legalized recreational marijuana 55 percent approval.

“[Initiative] 502 has passed,” McCready said. “And we all have to figure out how we’re going to make it work.”

In an April 2 memo to county planning employees, Community Development Director Sheila Roark Miller said marijuana cultivation will not be considered agriculture.

The county has approved two marijuana growing operations this year and has another 10 pending consideration of conditional-use permits.

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Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at jsmillie@peninsuladailynews.com.

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