County planners leave ‘pot’ ban sunset clause in limbo

After two years of banning new and existing marijuana businesses from expanding, the Klickitat Planning Commission needs more time.

Klickitat County’s Planning Commission deferred action last week on whether to repeal the sunset clause associated with the county’s bans on marijuana businesses. Planning Commissioners decided to move the decision to their next regular meeting on April 17 at 7 p.m. in the County Board of Com-missioners chamber.

During last Monday’s public hearing, 11 individuals testified in favor of Planning Commissioners creating a recommendation for the Board of County Commissioners to repeal the sunset clause. Klickitat County Sheriff Bob Songer was one of those testifying in favor of repealing the sunset clause.

Repealing the sunset clause would make Ordinance 063015 permanent, prohibiting new marijuana businesses (growers, packagers, and retailers) and the expansion of existing marijuana businesses.

Around 12 opponents (excluding one commenter who expressed favor for growing hemp) testified against the proposed repeal, and ex-pressed support for expansion of new and existing marijuana businesses.

If the Board of County Commissioners doesn’t take any action regarding the sunset clause before June 30, the clause will expire and remove the ordinance; making it null and void.

The expiration of the sunset clause, and removal of the ordinance, would allow for marijuana production, processing, and retail sales throughout unincorporated Klickitat County, depending on applicable zoning districts.

Of the Planning Commission’s nine seats, five were occupied during the meeting, which was well attended by the public. Public testimony lasted for over an hour and a half before Planning Commissioner Chair James Dean closed the hearing.

Planning Commissioners went back and forth on whether they should recommend a repeal, and requested more information be gather on what other counties had done in similar situations. Commissioners also expressed frustration with being dealt the responsibility to make a decision without more direction from County Commissioners.

“I don’t want to see this just repealed without some positive,” explained Dean. “Our whole thing was we thought it needed more than just the state overseeing it, or to just out-right prohibit it after it was prohibited by the state.”

Commissioners noted that the state doesn’t weigh the interest of neighbors when an application is submitted for a marijuana business, and that they wouldn’t want the state to regulate local land use because of that.

County Planning Director Mo-chi Lindblad told commissioners they did have the option to direct staff to send the proposal on to County Commissioners so they could have their own public hearing. Planning Commissioners dismissed this option.

“The prohibition, even though we say it’s permanent doesn’t mean that we can’t open it up at a later date,” Lindblad explained. “If we choose to repeal the sunset clause and make it permanent, we could open it up in two years, three years, or six months.”

The meeting concluded without a decision, and the topic was moved to the Planning Commission’s next meeting on Monday, April 17.

“We are really wanting to deal with this and we want to get it dealt with rapidly,” Dean said.

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