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Marijuana Moratorium Getting Public Hearing

Areas shaded in gray represent General Rural and Extensive Agriculture zoning districts.

Areas shaded in gray represent General Rural and Extensive Agriculture zoning districts.

Klickitat County Commissioners are seeking public comment on whether to continue, lift, or partially lift a moratorium on the production, processing, and sale of marijuana in the county’s unincorporated areas.

The County Board has called a public hearing for 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 10, at the courthouse in Goldendale. The hearing fulfills a legal requirement of the moratorium, which the County Board enacted on Oct. 15 to give the county 60 days to decide how it should proceed with regard to the establishment of marijuana-related enterprises.

According to County Planning Director Curt Dreyer, the Planning Department will recommend lifting the moratorium on the production and processing of marijuana on parcels that are 5 acres in size or larger, that are zoned for General Rural or Extensive Agriculture activities, and for applicants who have secured either a producer or processor license from the Wash-ington State Liquor Control Board. Both zones, Dreyer pointed out, allow agriculture outright (see zoning map at right). The growing and processing of marijuana, Dreyer said, are uses that have many characteristics similar to traditional agricultural operations, such as employees arriving and departing each day, other traffic to or from the operation, some customers arriving and departing each day, the on-site storage of volatile materials, and odors associated with the operation.

Moreover, Dreyer said he is recommending the County Board refer the matter to the Planning Commission to study the impacts of marijuana enterprises in residential, commercial, industrial, and other zoning districts, and develop recommendations and development standards for the County Board’s consideration.

“The County Commissioners are not opposed to new business opportunities for residents, but they are concerned that public safety, health, and welfare of locations allowed for the production and/or processing, and retail sales are carefully considered,” Dreyer said. “For example, a landowner with a family, children, and/or pets in Lyle, Wishram, or Glenwood could have legitimate concerns if the adjacent landowner growing or processing marijuana has motion lights and alarms being triggered nightly by cats or raccoons, is storing explosive solvents unsafely or waste materials for periods of time, has a surveillance system that is recording a portion of a neighbor’s property, or employees arriving and departing at various hours of the day.”

As of Nov. 26, seven Klickitat County applicants had applied for producer licenses (of 445 statewide), five had applied for processor licenses (328 statewide), but no one had applied for a retail sales license (159 statewide).

“Based on the public’s inquiries and comments received thus far, there is a general misconception that the moratorium is a permanent prohibition on producing, processing, and retail sales, when in fact, it is a temporary zoning tool that allows the County Commissioners some ‘breathing room’ in order to protect public safety, health, and general welfare,” Dreyer noted.

“In the matter at hand, the moratorium will allow the county to consider if marijuana growing, processing, or retail sales should be allowed in residential and other zones,” he continued, “and, if so, whether any standards, such as limitation on hours of sales, signage, and storage of materials, or processes, such as notification of adjacent and surrounding lot owners in a subdivision or short plat, should be established.”

Questions to be answered include:

Whether growing, processing, or selling marijuana should be allowed in high-density residential areas such as Dallesport, Lyle, Klickitat and Glenwood, in medium-density zones (residential areas zoned for 1- and 2-acre lots), or at all in areas zoned for residential use.

If marijuana growing, processing, or retail sale is allowed in residential areas, should standards be established relating to setbacks from property lines, parking, outdoor lighting, number of employees, signage, storage of hazardous materials, hours of sales, waste storage and disposal, and water supply.

Whether marijuana growing, processing, or retail sale should be considered a “home occupation” and allowed outright in any zone allowing home occupation as a use.

Whether growing, processing, or selling marijuana should be considered as “agriculture” and allowed as such, or whether any of these activities should be considered a new type of use through amendments to the County Code.

Whether marijuana-related business activities should be allowed as a conditional use in all zoning districts.

Whether marijuana production, processing, or retail sale is appropriate in light and heavy industrial zones, and whether retail sales should be allowed only in the Tourist Commercial and General Commercial zoning districts.

After receiving testimony, the County Board will either take no action or continue the matter, or direct the Planning Department to prepare findings of fact in support of its decision to continue, lift, or partially lift the moratorium.

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