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Bainbridge city council approves permanent marijuana regulations
The Bainbridge Island City Council sealed the deal on a marijuana ordinance Monday that will place pot retail, growing and processing in the Day Road business-industrial zone.
The council voted 4-1 to remove the ordinance's six-month expiration and finalize amendments proposed over the last two months.
"We have put forward a very sincere effort to work through different approaches," said Mayor Anne Blair.
"We've listened to the community and modified our initial approach. I think where we are now is one that I'm personally comfortable with and confident that everybody who participated and wanted to speak has been heard."
The ordinance has gone through several revisions since April.
Bainbridge's planning commission initially recommended regulations that would have placed marijuana growing in residential areas zoned R-0.4, a zone that allows one house per acre.
In response to opposition by residents in neighborhoods with that zoning, however, the council approved a revised ordinance with a six-month sunset to give time for more amendments.
The revised ordinance also placed grow operations at the Day Road business-industrial zone in indoor facilities, and required growers to use 50 percent renewable energy.
Debate over grow operations was soon replaced by concerns over retail pot shops, though.
The council at first agreed with the commission to allow the island's sole pot retail enterprise be established in one of the neighborhood service centers at Lynwood Center, Rolling Bay or Island Center.
But backlash from citizens did not take long materialize.
In the two months leading up to this week's public hearing, numerous Rolling Bay residents spoke against Evergreen, a proposed retail store near the Jiffy Mart at Rolling Bay.
Similar to public dissent over grow businesses in residential areas, some islanders said that a retail marijuana operation would have a negative impact on the family-friendly character of Rolling Bay.
At Monday's public hearing, the council brought forward a final ordinance that will place any retail location in the Day Road business-industrial area, along with marijuana growing and processing businesses.
The ordinance also removed renewable energy requirements for grow businesses after several citizens said it would be overbearingly expensive to implement and showed discrimination against one type of business.
The city may request documentation or monitoring reports on energy consumption, however.
Before the revised draft went to a vote Monday, Eric Snyder of Evergreen — the business that won the state lottery to open a retail store on Bainbridge — told the council that the Day Road area is an ideal location for pot retail from a business standpoint, but with the state mandated 1,000-foot buffer zone, space there is limited.
Out of the four buildings outside the buffer zone, Snyder explained, one is available, but the owner has shown no interest in selling or leasing to a marijuana business.
Even if the owner was willing, he said, rent payments would have to be paid outright as many banks deny loans and accounts for pot-related businesses.
"So in a lot of ways, this is a de facto ban putting it on Day Road," Snyder said.
Snyder added that he has extensive experience in high-end retail stores stretching from Moscow and Beijing to Sao Paolo and the U.S., so Bainbridge has little to worry about.
"I think a lot of people might have the idea in their head that this is going to be a headshop with a bunch of tie dye floating around it, and there's going to be a bunch of scuzzy dopers hanging around the area," Snyder said.
"I know how to put together a really nice space," he said. "There's no chance that this is going to look like a dump."
"I think if we try to put too many restrictions on this, I think it's going to make it impossible for Bainbridge to get what it deserves out of this," Snyder added.
Despite Snyder's comments, the vote went forward with little discussion on the changes for retail marijuana sales.
Councilman Val Tollefson said that while he would have liked to see greenhouse marijuana growing in R-0.4 zoned areas, he recognized he was in the minority.
"I think that the restrictions and the regulations that the state has imposed are more than adequate," Tollefson said.
"But I know there's no support on the council for that, so I'm not suggesting an amendment," he said.
Councilman Steve Bonkowski also expressed opposition.
"I believe that the people on Bainbridge Island voted for decriminalization," Bonkowski said.
"I'm not convinced that they voted to have marijuana growing and marijuana retail on our island," he said.
The council approved the ordinance in a 4-1 vote to place pot retail, growing and processing at the Day Road business-industrial zone. Councilman David Ward and Councilwoman Sarah Blossom were absent.
Bonkowski said he did not believe it was necessary for Bainbridge to be on the leading edge of establishing marijuana businesses in Washington.
He voted against the regulations.