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Marijuana factories coming to a neighborhood near you? LETTER TO THE EDITOR
To the editor:
I am writing to inform my Island neighbors of a very important issue that is being played out at city hall this month, one which will affect all of us who live here, but which is not receiving the attention it deserves, considering what is at stake for Islanders.
The planning commission is considering the issue of marijuana business zoning. Currently there is a moratorium (hold) on establishing the three types of marijuana businesses: retail, production and processing.
The moratorium expires this May, and the city council has passed the ball to the planning commission to determine how the city will classify and zone these businesses. Although the state has enacted some restrictions on the locations of marijuana businesses, the state Attorney General has given the green light for local jurisdictions to put in place their own zoning.
The planning commission has now held three meetings (study sessions) to decide how this new type of business fits into our community. I have attended every one.
My concern is not with marijuana itself, nor with the legal retail sale to adults. It does not matter if you are for or against its use, or whether you voted for or against the initiative.
However, the impact to our Island could be huge, because the committee is actually considering allowing 2,000- to 10,000-square-foot production (classified as a Tier 2 license) and processing operations in our residential neighborhoods.
The commission has acknowledged that this is not simple agriculture, and that certain conditions and operating practices apply (such as security alarms, cameras, eight foot fences -for outdoor facilities or alternatively, huge buildings – for indoor, and so on). However, if these continually rolling production facilities are allowed to be built in our neighborhoods, they would bring noise, waste and water runoff, increased water and power demands and unregulated odors. (There are no state regulations to control the smell, and if you don’t know how powerful the odors are from the growing and processing of the plant, just google it.)
Colorado, which regulates the smell with special censors and fines for violators, nevertheless has a high level of complaints on this issue. See http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2013/11/14/245254291/denvers-smell-o-scope-targets-marijuanas-skunky-scent.
Just because citizens voted to legalize marijuana should not grant those who want to make money from it a special business pass into our neighborhoods. Just because it is a new product does not mean we have to accommodate marijuana businesses by enacting special zoning and exemptions. We wouldn't do this for any other types of manufacturing business.
Because of these and other concerns, jurisdictions all around us — including Kitsap County, Poulsbo, Port Townsend and Gig Harbor — have limited the production and processing aspects to industrial/manufacturing and business/commercial zones. Some jurisdictions have banned them entirely, including Port Orchard and Pierce County.
The only reason the planning commission is even considering residential areas is because they feel that our island’s industrial/manufacturing zone is not big enough. This is ridiculous on its face and I am certain that if the members of the commission were facing marijuana facilities on their street, or in their neighborhoods, as is the case with those of us who live on Old Mill Road, they would manage to find or create or expand industrial zones to accommodate this experimental business.
It is self-evident that these facilities do not belong in residential neighborhoods. That the planning commission is even considering putting these facilities in residential neighborhoods is inexplicable, ignoring the fact that traffic, crime and property values will be impacted.
Lastly, keep in mind that these licensed facilities will become magnets for investment by people outside the Island community who will work to maximize the square foot operations of local licensees, an easy money- making target.
Although a few of the commissioners are against opening our neighborhoods for marijuana business, others on the Commission are wavering.
This is a crucial vote, and I urge you to write the planning commission to demand that they not allow our residential neighborhoods to be blighted by marijuana production facilities.
Write to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Attn: Planning Commission
280 Madison Avenue N
Bainbridge Island, WA 98110
Please also attend the next meetings when this issue will be taken up again.
The dates are: study session at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 27, and a hearing at 7 p.m.Thursday, March 13, at city hall.
Keep in mind that if we fail to act, these marijuana factories could be coming to your neighborhood.