Residents tell commission to say ‘no’ to pot production in rural residential areas

CHIMACUM — Almost all of the comments from 18 people to the Jefferson County Planning Commission during a public hearing were about marijuana production in rural areas.

The commission conducted the hearing Wednesday night on four proposed text amendments to the county’s comprehensive plan.

The amendment concerning marijuana would prohibit cannabis production and processing in rural residential zones.

In addition to marijuana, the planning commission is considering text amendments that would rescind provisions of the forest transition overlay; create new regulations for permitting multiple accessory dwelling units per parcel; and require a citizen panel be convened to address homelessness and affordable housing.

Out of 18 speakers, two addressed affordable housing as a pressing need and supported the proposed text amendment.

The planning commission took verbal and written testimony this week and will vote on each of the proposed amendments when it meets at 4:30 p.m. May 1 at the Tri-Area Community Center, 10 W. Valley Road in Chimacum.

The vote could move recommendations to a final docket to the Board of County Commissioners, who would have until July to make a decision.

In three-minute segments, residents pointed to many drawbacks of marijuana grow operations — light and noise pollution, smell and an overuse of water — as they told planning commissioners they didn’t want pot in rural residential zones.

“We need to preserve a healthy, unpolluted and safe environment, not just for us but for future generations,” said Dr. James L. Olson of Quilcene.

Many of those in attendance were from Marrowstone Island, where a proposed application for a 10,000-square-foot cannabis growing and processing facility was denied by a hearing examiner in October 2017. That application was filed under a cottage industry permit as well as a conditional use permit on Flagler Road.

John Comstock of Nordland said Marrowstone Island residents pooled $50,000 to research and challenge the application in court.

“It’s not tiny backyard farming,” Comstock said. “It’s gotten to the stage where, to be cost-effective, it has to be on a larger scale.”

Vigo Anderson of Nordland said he’s not against marijuana, but he wants to see “common sense.”

“It’s not agriculture,” Anderson said. “The money is in the retail. Approve this, and there will be no marijuana production in rural areas in the entire county.

“I moved to rural residential for the residential lifestyle,” he added, “not the industrial lifestyle.”

Another group of residents came from Coyle, where they say a 5-acre parcel could become an area for “industrial use.”

“It’s an inappropriate and unstoppable precedent,” said Karen Grooms of Coyle.

Evelyn Ortmann of Quilcene called the same proposal a “pot factory” that would attract crime due to the nature of the product.

Earlier this month, Patty Charnas, the director for the county’s department for community development, told planning commissioners she doesn’t expect to have funds to carry out any of the proposed text amendments.

Her staff evaluated each proposal in terms of need, urgency, appropriateness and cost. The marijuana text amendment was identified as the most urgent but requires “substantial DCD staff time and resources,” according to the staff review.

Kathleen Waldron of Nordland said she hopes that will change.

“If there are no funds available, promise to put this off to the 2020 docket and budget the funds to be able to take care of it,” Waldron 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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