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One more step closer

Hearing examiner approves Cheney Hydroponics use permit application


An application for construction of a marijuana production and processing facility in Cheney cleared on more hurdle this week.

Cheney Hearing Examiner pro tem Brian McGinn approved the conditional use permit application for Cheney Hydroponics, which intends to build a 6,500 square foot facility in the city’s Commerce and Industrial Park. The development site at the corner of Fred Johns Way and Willow Street includes three tax parcels and is approximately 81,021 square feet, or 1.86 acres, in size.

McGinn placed no special conditions on Cheney Hydroponics’ application, finding that the information submitted by the applicant, Dr. Bill Youngs, and the city Planning Department were consistent with current Business Park zoning regulations as well as the city’s comprehensive plan. Regarding the latter, McGinn found the application was in keeping with comprehensive plan policy No. 5 to “Support small businesses, entrepreneurship and innovation as a fundamental component of Cheney’s economic resilience” and policy No. 2 for creating opportunities for more living wage jobs.

Members of the public provided testimony to McGinn at a public hearing Jan. 16, some of which he addressed in his published decision. Much of the testimony was in opposition to the facility, but it was primarily based upon the individual’s feelings about whether marijuana should be legal in Washington state or the dangers associated with overusing the drug.

Marijuana was approved for legal, recreational use by 55.7 percent of the voters statewide in November 2012, over 52 percent in Spokane County and approximately the same as the statewide count in Cheney. McGinn noted that voters had addressed legal marijuana as a public policy issue with the passage of Initiative 502, and that there were no laws or statutes allowing a hearing examiner to deny an application for a marijuana facility based upon “his opinions about the alleged social ills caused by marijuana use, abuse, availability or the like.”

“The Hearing Examiner function is to interpret and apply the law as it exists,” McGinn wrote.

In response to passage of I-502, Cheney quickly enacted interim zoning Ordinance W-18, which incorporated initiative language limiting where marijuana facilities could locate – within 1,000 straight line feet of sensitive use areas and facilities – with the requirement to follow the conditional use permit application process. This limited these facilities locations to the Business Park or Light Industrial zones.

McGinn found no basis of facts for most of the assertions made by those providing testimony regarding the physical impacts of a marijuana facility in the business park. Furthermore, in his application Youngs spelled out special steps the facility would take with regards to making sure any odors from growing or processing marijuana for use were contained within the facility through a high-tech ventilation system.

Youngs also said he planned to take steps to landscape more than what was required by the codes to make sure the facility was attractive to the area and secure, and in their report to the hearing examiner the Cheney Planning Department agreed with his measures.

McGinn also noted that “much of the testimony was speculative” regarding odor impacts and other alleged forms of air pollution. Without the weight of expert opinion or scientific research, such assertions were not enough to deny the project’s application.

Several more steps remain before Youngs can break ground any time soon on the facility, including being granted an application by the state Liquor Control Board, purchase of the land and following other building code requirements for documentation and payment.

The public has until 5 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 11, to file an appeal of the hearing examiner’s decision.

“If there is no appeal by Feb. 11, then it is officially approved as far as the use permit goes,” Cheney planner Brett Lucas wrote in an email.

John McCallum can be reached at

Click on the following link to read the Cheney Hearing Examiner’s decision

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