County Reverses Decision On Pot Zoning

marigow apFor the second week in a row, Mason County Commissioners dealt with their past decisions relating to Title 17 zoning regulations as the regulation relates to land use zoning for recreational marijuana; identifying land use approval for marijuana production and processing operations. Tim Sheldon requested Commission Chair Terri Jeffreys rearrange the commission meeting's agenda to allow time to deal with the action agenda and vote before he had to leave the meeting early, (10:30 AM) for an appointment.

Citizen comment included confirmation on the existing permits (i.e. Sells Road Operation) for marijuana operations are grandfathered in and will not be closed down. Additional build out of permitted properties with additional buildings during the moratorium will to be determined by the Commission, as part of the moratorium hearings. There are currently 11 vested permits/applications for recreational marijuana in various zones. There are an additional eight permits/applications with completed pre-permit conferences but the permits/applications have not been submitted or issued. Five applications are affected by the moratorium.

Both Commissioners Jeffreys and Neatherlin admitted to making a huge mistake with their votes supporting the zoning, both apologized for their error. Tim Sheldon reminded the public he did not vote for the ordinance, and he did not appreciate Commissioner Neatherlin making assumption as to how he (Sheldon) would have voted. Commissioner Neatherlin justified his reasoning based on published commission hearing minutes of the November 5, 2013 hearing, where Sheldon said he was not in favor of moratoriums, favored production and processing in one location and felt the buffers should not be any different than other zoning regulation.

Neatherlin did offer a very heartfelt comment, stating his base beliefs went against some of the issues he as a commissioner had to vote on, however he tries to follow the will of the people and votes accordingly. He feels the moratorium is a knee jerk reaction, and does not serve the people who gave previous testimony supporting the current zoning. Neatherlin wants to take more time to make an informed decision to service all the needs of the people and business, by having a hearing before setting a moratorium. Neatherlin said, “We screwed up, people are going to suffer from a decision to set this moratorium. Agricultural and industrial zones represent a very small portion of the County, preventing people who have invested their money into property they can no longer use.”

Commissioner Sheldon, after a brief history lesson on land zoning in Mason County, made the motion to remain consistent with past zoning practices of the county. Sheldon identified those zoning practices as "reverse" from the way other counties do their zoning regulations. Mason County zones are based on what can go in the zone, other counties zone the land for what cannot go in the zone. Sheldon made the motion, Jeffrey's seconded the motion:

Approval to adopt a six month moratorium on the production and processing of recreational marijuana allowing these activities only in agricultural and industrial agricultural zoned districts as established in Ordinance 62-13, and setting a public hearing to consider public testimony on Tuesday, July 22 at 6:30 p.m. pursuant to RCW 36.70a.390.

Jeffreys admitted she is not a fan of the marijuana industry, but said if it is a legal action a person should be able to do it; marijuana industry is a brand new industry and the Commissioners were learning and based on the information provided to them and the community input, the Commission made a decision. This moratorium gives the Commission an opportunity to relook at the zoning and land uses. Regarding the vested permits issued, Jeffreys said she will stand by them, as that was the law at the time. Jeffreys encouraged citizen involvement.

The Commission voted 2 to 1 to approve the moratorium, Neatherlin voted no.

July 1, 2014/JE KMAS News