Marathon Meeting: 2-1 to repeal the County's Moratorium on Marijuana. The grand finale of the three hearings in a packed house was definitely the best and had the most testimony. The hearing was to give the public an opportunity to comment on Ordinance #32-14, adopted on July 1, 2014, enacting a zoning moratorium prohibiting the production and processing of marijuana in all zoning districts with the exception of Agricultural Resource Lands and Industrially Zoned districts.
The Commissioners, once they were all on the same page, (Sheldon was unaware of the existence of this suggested amendment to the ordinance, rescinding the moratorium, as he missed the briefing session the day before where the topic of the moratorium was discussed and the proposed ordinance drafted) reminded the audience to be respectful of each other, to direct their comments to the commission, and limit their testimony to two minutes or less.
The commission heard comments for and against the moratorium. Citizens against the moratorium testified to the commission as to the impact financially on their businesses and personal lives. Some individuals testified they had put their life's savings into the business, and the moratorium literally put them out of business. Attorney Edward Melillo sent a letter to the commission questioning the legality of the moratorium, due to the way the moratorium was decided by the county Commission. Other comments included the impact to the county's economy and others suggested with the moratorium in place, the black market for marijuana would excel.
Citizens in favor of the moratorium echoed previous Sells road comments in support of the industry, just "not in my back yard", and expressed fear other rural residential areas will experience similar issue if the moratorium is lifted. Other issues had to do with protecting their children and the present/future value of their properties.
Stated she knew she would not make everyone happy regardless of her decision. Jeffreys said she heard issues (water quality, odor, child safety, light pollution) two weeks ago and voted for the Moratorium to buy time to investigate the issues. Jeffrey's stated she spent the past 2 weeks since the moratorium studying the issues and felt most of the issues she heard were based on fear of the unknown and she did not feel the real estate fears were real. Jeffreys felt the moratorium was hurting people who were doing what they were told was right.
Jeffreys felt that lifting the moratorium for 90 days would allow those serious business owners time to restart their licensing and permitting processes, and get their businesses licensed completed. The 90 day window would give the Planning Commission time to re-look at and revise the zoning codes to better meet the needs of the county and its citizens.
Sheldon stated he was fine with his position and defended what he said. Sheldon feels the basis of the problem is this is an initiative and not a RCW. The process did not go through the legislature; there was no process to gather public input.
The problem Sheldon has with the proposed ordinance repealing the moratorium is he did not get an opportunity, due to attending a two hour meeting at Squaxin Island, to review the proposal and ask questions. He also felt the public or the press did not receive an opportunity to review the ordinance.
Mason County voters did vote for -I502, but not for the facility to be next door to their residence. Sheldon feels this issue will continue as retail facilities come on line. He feels the moratorium should remain in place.
"Residential" areas are all around us, mixed within industrial and agricultural zoned areas. Neatherlin stated he was against the five acre lots (RR5) being zoned for marijuana grow operations.
Mistakes were made, however the process did work. There was some misunderstanding by the Commissioners with the actual size of the three different producer tiers.
Regarding property values Neatherlin, also a realtor, feels the property values will not drop, stating "Zillow" is not an accurate site to evaluate property values.
The moratorium affects the people who were trying to conduct legal business, investing their life savings. Lifting the moratorium helps get those businesses back on track and will allow more time to develop workable zoning.
Neatherlin pointed out the process utilized to set the existing moratorium was not correct either, this ordinance will correct it.
The vote: For: Jeffrey's and Neatherlin Against: Sheldon
Audio on Commisioners Final Remarks
Purpose and details of the amendment:
- To immediately repeal, rescind, or otherwise annul, the Moratorium immediately.
- To direct the Planning Advisory Commission shall, within 90 days or no later than October 20, 2014, make recommendation for amendments to Chapter 17.17 as it relates to the production and processing of marijuana in the rural residential zoning districts to specifically consider:
- Increasing buffers between operations and neighboring residential dwelling units from 100 feet to 250 feet; and
- Limiting Rural Residential 5 districts to allow Tier 1 level operations only; and
- Limiting Tier 2 and Tier 3 level operations in Rural Residential districts to parcels of 10 or more acres.
• Direct the Planning Advisory Commission to, within 90 days and no later than October 20, 2014, make recommendations to the Commissioners amending Chapter 17.17 as it affects the rural residential districts.
JE KMAS News – July 23, 2014