Cheney’s City Council resumed the process of enacting an ordinance regulating the siting of marijuana growing, processing and retail facilities in the city by opening a public hearing on the interim measures at their regular monthly meeting Tuesday night.
Ordinance W-18 was established on an interim basis in November 2013 with a six-month time frame with which to modify and pass into law or do nothing about, in which case the city would loose its ability to control where and how marijuana facilities are established through passage of Initiative 502 could locate in the city. At the Jan. 28 meeting, Public Works Director Todd Ableman presented a timeline to the council surrounding adoption of W-18.
The council took public testimony Tuesday night, and voted to continue the public hearing at its Feb. 11 meeting. After the hearing is closed at that meeting, a resolution coupled with findings of fact would be presented to the council for adoption.
If adopted the ordinance goes to the Planning Commission, which would hold a public hearing at its March 10 regular meeting as part of the zoning amendment adoption process. Once that hearing is conducted, the ordinance, along with any changes, heads back to council for final recommendation at its March 25 meeting.
“It’s likely it, W-18, will look exactly the same as it does now given what happened last night,” city attorney Stanley Schwartz told the council.
Schwartz was referring to a special council meeting held Monday evening in a packed council chambers where the public expressed support or opposition to the zoning measure. In some cases opposition was expressed in general to the legalization of recreational marijuana, which was passed in 2012 by 55.7 percent of voters statewide and a similar margin in Cheney.
Testimony given Monday night would be included in the discussion record on W-18, along with additional comment made at the hearing Tuesday by several individuals who did not testify previously. City Chaplain George Abrams and United Church of Christ pastor Dr. Dave Krueger-Duncan pointed out to the council that the state-imposed 1,000-foot radius from sensitive use facilities such as schools, daycares and parks did not include churches, and asked for religious institutions carrying a non-profit 501 C (3) designation be added.
Another resident noted ordinance language was unclear what would happen if a marijuana business was established in an allowable zone only to have a sensitive use such as a daycare center come in later and locate within the 1,000-foot radius of the business. Would the marijuana business have to move, the woman asked.
Schwartz admitted he didn’t know, but theorized one of two things would take place: the business would be allowed as a non-conforming right, or the Liquor Control Board could find its location detrimental and force it to close. In order to protect ongoing financial interests it was suggested the issue be clarified.
Dr. Bill Youngs, whose application for a marijuana producer/processor facility in the city’s Commerce and Industrial Park is undergoing the review process, expressed some frustration with the way the process was going. Youngs said that when he first approached the city with the application he felt welcomed, but now wasn’t so sure, adding he was also receiving some pressure from the state regarding his production/processing application.
Mayor Tom Trulove told Youngs if his application had been for a conventional business it would probably have gone a little faster. Marijuana has proven controversial in a number of municipalities, including Cheney.
“You’re in an industry that, it’s a first,” Trulove said. “We’re going through the process of the zoning code as quickly as we can.”
In other business the council approved renewing an interlocal agreement with Eastern Washington University to provide fire protection and emergency medical service to the campus for 2014. The council also approved a resolution awarding a bid for a new Light Department bucket truck to Altec Industries in the sum of $212,070.
Light Department Director Joe Noland told the council the department would not use the old truck when the new one arrived but would be surplused out.
“We won’t get the new truck until 2015,” Noland said. “It takes that long.”
John McCallum can be reached at email@example.com.