Bainbridge Planning Commission says marijuana farms should be allowed in residential areas

The Bainbridge Island Planning Commission has submitted its final recommendations for regulations on new marijuana businesses and commissioners said marijuana growing should be allowed in some residential areas.

After a public hearing Thursday, the commission also said retail pot shops should be allowed to locate in the city's commercially zoned areas.

Commissioners said the limited land on Bainbridge was a main factor in their recommendations.

"Other jurisdictions in and around Kitsap County have limited marijuana production and farming activities to areas not zoned for residential," Commissioner Kate Kelly said.

"Bainbridge Island has a relatively small amount of land that falls within this description," she said.

The commission decided in a narrow 4-3 vote on six conditions for marijuana growing on Bainbridge.

Growing will only be permitted on Residential-0.4 zoned property (which allows one home on 2.5 acres) and on a minimum lot size of one acre. The production area will be limited to 2,000 square feet of plant canopy or 15 to 20 plants. Growing must also be done outdoors or in greenhouses.

The remaining three conditions forwarded by the commission follow state-mandated conditions.

Grow operations must include setbacks, buffers and screening under the city staff's advisement. Marijuana farms must also comply with all state regulations. And a site plan review and city permit will be required, as well.

The recommendations, drafted by Kelly, would seek to mitigate concerns that have been raised since January.

By limiting growing to the outdoors and greenhouses, it would cut down on potential electricity usage.

Also, since the grow operations would be kept relatively small with buffers, there would likewise be low traffic and visual impact of marijuana production operations on the island.

Kelly also explained that by taking a more cautious approach the city would have room to learn and make amendments where necessary.

The vote at first stood on standby during Thursday's meeting after some commissioners expressed concern for permitting grow operations in residential zones.

Commissioner Julie Kriegh said that while limiting grow operations to residential areas may prohibit growing from more public parts of the island, residential areas are where children roam the most.

"The places where they hang out, where they roam, where they build forts and tree houses invite neighborhood kids over, is on their residential property," Kriegh said.

"I ask you, what child should be left behind in this, what piece of property with a child on it, shouldn't be bubbled? Because the one child on a piece property should be just as protected as those who might be in a park."

Other commissioners responded that "putting a bubble" around children may not be the answer, and instead, education and awareness should be stressed.

Similarly, Commissioner Jon Quitslund explained that the purpose of R-0.4 is to provide low-density housing where the environment is consistent with other land uses such as agriculture and forestry.

This zoning makes up about 55 percent of the island's acreage, he said.

By limiting grow operations to that amount of acreage and to a maximum of 2,000 square feet, Quitslund explained, residents will not see a large impact.

But, he said, it will also leave room for agricultural growth in the future.

The commission voted unanimously to allow marijuana processing in business industrial zoned areas and retail in commercially zoned districts.

Potential processors will be subject to a site plan review upon establishing business.

Likewise, though they will be allowed in all current commercially zoned areas of the island, potential marijuana retailers will still be subject to state regulations that prohibit retail within 1,000 feet of community-based areas.

This includes parks, schools and recreation centers.

As for collective gardens, the commission voted unanimously to ban collective gardens for medical marijuana to fit with pending state legislation.


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