Bainbridge council revives talk on legal marijuana businesses on the island

A map prepared by the city of Bainbridge Island shows the location of business applications that have been made for growing, processing and selling marijuana on the island. - Map courtesy of the city of Bainbridge Island
A map prepared by the city of Bainbridge Island shows the location of business applications that have been made for growing, processing and selling marijuana on the island.
— image credit: Map courtesy of the city of Bainbridge Island

Bainbridge Island residents remain divided over where — or even if — the city should allow businesses on the island to grow, process and sell marijuana.

The Bainbridge council will again take up the issue of legal marijuana — made possible in Washington state by voters with the approval of Initiative 502 in November 2012 — at the council's meeting Monday night.

Council members will review an ordinance that sets out rules for marijuana processing, retailing and production businesses, and consider  setting a public hearing in two weeks on the new rules.

So far, Washington has received applications from Bainbridge Island for six producer licenses, four processor licenses and five retail licenses.

A map of marijuana business locations based on the pending applications that was produced by city staff show potential producer/processor businesses north of Northeast Torvanger Road, near Miller Road, on Northeast Old Mill Road, and near Ferncliff Avenue Northeast. Applications for retail businesses have been submitted for pot stores on Miller Road, Day Road, Northeast Valley Road and Ericksen Avenue, though the state has said just a single retail operation will be allowed on Bainbridge.

Bainbridge officials have received more than three dozen letters on the city's proposed marijuana regulations since the council's last meeting on the topic.

A slight majority of the letters were in favor of the planning commission's recommendations on the new rules.

The proposed restrictions would ban collective gardens for medical marijuana; allow a retail pot shop on the island (Bainbridge has been allotted a single marijuana sales outlet by the state) within the zoning set for general retail businesses; and allow marijuana processing in Bainbridge's business/industrial area near Day Road

The most controversial piece of the planning commission's recommendations, however, has been the suggestion to allow Tier 1 marijuana-growing operations on properties in the R-0.4 zoning district, a residential zone that allows one house per acre.

Tier 1 producers are the smallest allowed under state regulations, and licenses allow growing operations of less than 2,000 square feet of plant canopy.

Letters submitted to the city show islanders oppose legal marijuana businesses for a variety of reasons, and some are worried about the prospects of marijuana farms on residential properties.

Some said allowing marijuana-growing operations on residential land would hurt nearby property values.

One resident forwarded an email from a Bainbridge Island real estate broker, who polled his office and found "a very concerned and passionate, 100 percent yes vote that a grow operation in any neighborhood on the island will dramatically impact property values for the entire neighborhood."

The broker added that "even the possibility of such an operation" would negatively impact nearby property values.

Others said allowing marijuana-production businesses would expose children to the drug, lead to an increase in criminal activity, and result in odor pollution or other environmental impacts.

"Bainbridge Island is a family orientated island and we do not want any pot farms in our residential neighborhoods," wrote Ingrid Blohm-Hyde, a 20-year resident of the island. "We have too many kids on this island to allow this kind of farming in our neighborhoods."

"Some of you are showing an absolute disregard for the people whose neighborhoods would be affected by allowing grow houses in their midst," Sharon Ruzumna wrote in a letter to the city council after their recent workshop on marijuana.

"They will be losing their established property values, and are being asked to sacrifice their comfort and feeling of safety in their homes," Ruzumna wrote. "I daresay, if a grow operation were to open across the street or next door to any member of the council, the discussion and vote would be different — an open and shut case."

Some of the letters received by the city have come from residents on Old Mill Road, where a marijuana-growing operation has been proposed.

"It is absurd to allow a marijuana producer to operate a grow facility in a residential neighborhood near adjacent homes and families," wrote property owners Ferdinando, Marcia and Teresa Muzzi.

They raised similar concerns that allowing grow operations in residential areas could lead to crime, lowered property values, and possible odor, water and light pollution.

"Children catch the school bus on our street adjacent to the proposed marijuana grow facility," they wrote. "What precautions will be put in place to protect the children waiting for the bus and the children on the bus passing by the grow facility? Will a safer route be put in place?"

Others islanders support the planning commission's recommendations on the new regulations.

"Keep our community strong by keeping the peace with peaceful agricultural practice, rather than weakening and dividing it by vilifying and/or prosecuting productive citizens cultivating legal plants on private property," wrote Lilly Schneider, a 20-year resident.

"In regard to all the outrage about the proposed marijuana growing facility on Old Mill Road, I just want to let you know that there are many of us in this neighborhood who have no issue with this," wrote Libby James.

"If the folks up my road can make a go of this, then my hat is off to them, and I wish them all the best," James continued. "This is turning into a very emotional issue with some people and I believe that needs to be put aside. I don't believe that property values will go down, nor do I believe that we will need to buy guns to protect ourselves from the marauding weed thieves that will be invading our quiet domain. These are good people who are applying for this permit."

Alexander Scott, the islander hoping to start a small marijuana growing operation on Old Mill Road, noted that marijuana can already be grown and processed "on every household on Bainbridge" under the existing setup in Washington for medical marijuana.

The Bainbridge council will meet at 7 p.m. Monday, April 28. A council workshop on the Shoreline Master Program begins at 6 p.m.




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