Port Townsend Planing Commission seeks public input on home-based pot growing, processing

PORT TOWNSEND — Residents with opinions about home-based marijuana growing and processing enterprises can make them known to the Port Townsend Planning Commission, the board’s chairman said.

“People don’t understand the process and are looking to the city for guidance,” said Monica Mick Hager, who has served on the commission for six years.

“It is now a good time for people to contact us and tell us what they want to happen.”

On Dec. 12, the commission heard a staff presentation that recommended the extension of a six-month moratorium that ends in February.

The staff felt more time is needed to develop a strategy for allowing home-based businesses for the growing and processing of marijuana.

The commission could consider recommending a moratorium extension at its next meeting, which generally is held in City Council chambers at 6:30 p.m. on the second and fourth Thursdays of the month. The next regularly scheduled meeting on Thursday was canceled.

As an advisory board, the Planning Commission only recommends action to the City Council and has no approval power.

The moratorium does not affect the opening of the single retail outlet that the state will allow within the city limit.

Three applications were received for the one approved franchise during the license application period that ended Dec. 20, all of them using addresses in the shopping center adjacent to the Howard Street roundabout at the south end of town.

Retailers must be located in a business district and conform to the 1,000-foot buffer that requires such stores not be next to schools, parks and some transit facilities.

Non-retail operations, such as production and cultivation, also are subject to the buffers but are not required to locate within the business district.

It is here that the rules need clarity, Mick Hager said.

“We have a handful of parks that aren’t developed, and we need to determine if the buffer applies to them,” she said.

“But we want to know how the people in the neighborhoods feel.”

Mick Hager said she supports the idea of home-based businesses but doesn’t want to adversely impact neighborhoods.

“When there is a business nearby your house, you want to know what the effect will be, how much traffic it will bring and whether it will change things,” she said.

Mick Hager said she would like to schedule a public hearing to collect community input, as previous hearings have been scarcely advertised and sparsely attended.

Jefferson County will get four retail cannabis stores under Liquor Board rules: one in Port Townsend and three anywhere else in the county.

Clallam County will be allowed six retail pot shops: one in Sequim, two in Port Angeles and three others anywhere else in the county.

There is no limit on the number of growers or processors that will be eligible for licenses.

State investigators have begun reviewing applicants, who must undergo background checks, be residents of Washington state and have their business areas inspected by the state.

The state Liquor Control Board will ask cities and counties to comment on business license applications filed by Jefferson and Clallam county entrepreneurs. There have been 108 filed on the North Olympic Peninsula.

Local government entities have 20 days from the date of state notification to take a position on an applicant or not.

After taking input from the cities and counties, the state will hold a lottery to determine which qualified applicants will receive a marijuana retail licence.

No date for the lottery has been set.

The Sequim Planning Commission will consider a proposed ordinance defining where a retail establishment can be and outlawing growing and processing within the city.

Port Angeles and Forks officials have said they are monitoring the implementation of Initiative 502 but have taken no formal positions.

Jefferson and Clallam county officials have said they will look to see that applicants meet state rules and land use regulations.

Any comments about the proposed marijuana law in Port Townsend should be sent to the city Planning Commission in care of Senior Planner John McDonagh at jmcdonagh@cityofpt.us or by phoning 360-344-3070.

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Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or cbermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie and Reporter Rob Ollikainen contributed to this story.

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