Council passes emergency marijuana zoning
The Cheney City Council passed a six-month, emergency ordinance at its Nov. 12 meeting establishing interim zoning and land use regulation that would determine where potential marijuana retailers, processors and producers can locate in the city.
City staff told the council emergency measures were needed as a response to final rules adopted Oct. 16 by the Washington State Liquor Control Board, which become effective Nov. 16, allowing the board to begin accepting statewide applications for marijuana distribution Nov. 18.
Washington voters approved the production and sale of marijuana for recreational use with the passage of Initiative 502 in November 2012, becoming one of the first states – Colorado was the other – to do so. The Liquor Control Board has been working on regulations since then, and has allocated 18 retail locations to Spokane County, eight of which will be in the city of Spokane, three in the city of Spokane Valley with the remaining seven at large in the county.
Language in I-502 established a 1,000-foot buffer between marijuana retail, processing and production locations and sensitive use facilities such as schools and designated public facilities like parks, churches and daycare centers. Cheney Public Works Director Todd Ableman said plotting these locations on a map of the city and using the 1,000 foot distance requirement produced very few locations within the city that marijuana distributors can locate, mainly commercial and industrial zones in the southwest portion of the city beyond Presley Street, along with a small commercial area in the north.
The emergency ordinance gives Cheney the ability to review applications through the city’s conditional use permit process and in accordance with its comprehensive plan. City attorney Stanley Schwartz told the council the Liquor Control Board could begin taking actions on the marijuana production and sales applications as early as Dec. 18, another reason the emergency ordinance was needed.
“It lays down where, for a six-month period, a retailer, or processor – essentially a distiller – or a producer can locate in the city,” Schwartz said. He added that jurisdictions can’t prohibit these functions, but they can limit where they can locate.
“I can tell you for certain, marijuana will not be sold in residential neighborhoods,” he told the council.
The ordinance lists numerous requirements for marijuana production and retail outlets locations, including conformity to the city’s comprehensive plan’s “Land Use” section’s goal to keep Cheney’s neighborhoods “safe, vital and attractive through the type and character of development which maintains and improves neighborhoods, community services and the built environment.” The ordinance goes one step further by requiring marijuana production and processing to take place in fully enclosed, secure facilities with solid walls, roofs and doors to address impacts such as odor, noise, light, glare, security waste disposal and other land use impacts.
“This is prescriptive to the city of Cheney,” Schwartz said of the additional requirements.
Police Chief John Hensley told the council security was one his department’s biggest concerns regarding marijuana facilities. He said they were comfortable with the steps taken in the ordinance, and felt they would meet those security concerns while also addressing the “will of the people.”
A public hearing is required for the emergency ordinance, but has yet to be scheduled. Schwartz said that after six months the city could revisit any or all aspects of the ordinance, making adjustments or wholesale changes as deemed necessary.
The council also passed several other resolutions and ordinances off a very busy agenda Tuesday night. The council passed a resolution accepting an $18,000 grant made annually since 2007 to the city from the Washington State Office of Public Defense that will help improve Cheney Municipal Courts’ ability to improve indigent public defense services.
Council also approved a resolution accepting a $14,300 grant from the Washington State Homeland Security Grant Program to assist the purchasing of medical equipment and training for tactical emergency casualty care. Council then approved a $35,000 allocation from the city’s conservation budget to Portland Energy Conservation Incorporated’s Energy Smart Grocer Program that encourages energy efficiency improvements in utility customers that have commercial refrigeration loads.
Bonneville Power Administration funds PECI measures, which can be deducted from the city’s conservation budget for fiscal year 2014-2015. If PECI can’t locate these conservation measures the city could then de-allocate the money.
The city’s ongoing contract for animal control services with Spokane County was also renewed. Police Chief Hensley said the $10,463 contract contained some important changes, such as licenses now being issued that are countywide rather than jurisdiction specific and a service expansion under which animal control officers will now respond to calls on weekends and after hours.
“I think our buck is going to go further under the new program,” Hensley said.
Finally, the council approved ordinances fixing the 2014 general fund levy amount at $1,189,682, and $11,897 increase from 2013, and the emergency medical services levy at $250,748, an increase of $2,507. Council also held the first reading of the city’s overall $23.26 million 2014 budget.
John McCallum can be reached at email@example.com.