Council sets public hearing, possible vote on marijuana moratorium

The county’s Planning Commission voted 3-2 earlier this month to recommend overturning the 2014 ban

CLARK COUNTY — The Clark County Council is set to finally hear from the public, and potentially decide on the future of marijuana-related businesses at its first meeting in July. 

The Clark County Public Service Building. Photo by Chris Brown
The Clark County Public Service Building. Photo by Chris Brown

This latest discussion around the 2014 moratorium on pot-related businesses in the unincorporated parts of the county began last April with the first of two work sessions for the council. Earlier this month the County Planning Commission recommended 3-2 to reverse the ban, with some modifications to existing code. 

Under the Planning Commission’s recommendations, businesses that grow, produce, or sell marijuana would be allowed, but medical marijuana co-ops would continue to be banned. They would reduce the minimum parcel size for marijuana growers and processors on agricultural or forest resource zoned land from 10 to five acres. The commission would remove Industrial Railroad land from the approved list of zones for marijuana production.

Marijuana retail businesses would be allowed in General Commercial or Community Commercial zones, but not in Rural Centers (CR-2).

Clark County Council holds a work session on the possibility of overturning the county’s 2014 ban on marijuana-related businesses in the unincorporated areas. Photo by Chris Brown
Clark County Council holds a work session on the possibility of overturning the county’s 2014 ban on marijuana-related businesses in the unincorporated areas. Photo by Chris Brown

Among the most controversial of recommendations surrounds buffer zones. While state law mandates that any marijuana-related business be at least 1,000 feet from elementary or primary schools or public playgrounds and parks, the county can set limits for other businesses. The Planning Commission recommended that the buffer for anything outside of those mandated by the state be set at 750 feet.

Colete Anderson, a community planning manager for the county, said the smaller buffer was introduced as a way of opening more potential locations for businesses.

“The other thing to think about too, is that there’s a limited number of licenses available,” Anderson told the council at a work session on Wednesday. “So for retail, as an example. There are only three retail licenses in unincorporated Clark County that has been issued. And so if you were to keep the thousand foot buffer, they would have a potential of 239 potential locations to locate.”

At the request of council, Clark County Geographic Information Services (GIS) put together an interactive map that shows the likely buffer zones based on distances of 1,000, 750, 500, and 100 feet. 

Colete Anderson (left) and Oliver Orjiako with Clark County Community Planning talk about changes to the 2014 moratorium on marijuana-related businesses. Photo by Chris Brown
Colete Anderson (left) and Oliver Orjiako with Clark County Community Planning talk about changes to the 2014 moratorium on marijuana-related businesses. Photo by Chris Brown

At the Planning Commission’s June 6 meeting, a number of marijuna business owners advocated for changing the way buffers are measured from the current method of property line to property line, in favor of door-to-door, but the commission said legal council determined state laws don’t allow for that change.

At Wednesday’s council work session, Councilor Gary Medvigy said he had heard from several people concerned that the 750-foot buffer was intended to benefit a single business.

“I couldn’t remember where that adjustment came from and why,” Medvigy said, “but certainly, it shouldn’t benefit one particular retailer over the business interests of the general group that’s out there that may have permits.”

District One Councilor Temple Lentz, the most vocal supporter of lifting the ban on the council, said they had been contacted by a number of people requesting that buffer distances be examined.

“And we’ve been contacted by people who have certificates, which means they’re not currently in operation, people who have permits, and they talked about, there is a limited amount of area that these facilities can be cited in,” Lentz said. “And at 1000 feet, we further limit the ability for them to find suitable spaces. So they asked us to take a look at the possibility of reducing it for the ones that we can reduce it for, in order to see if and how that opened up more potential commercial space.”

Clark County Council holds a work session on the possibility of overturning the county’s 2014 ban on marijuana-related businesses in the unincorporated areas. Photo by Chris Brown
Clark County Council holds a work session on the possibility of overturning the county’s 2014 ban on marijuana-related businesses in the unincorporated areas. Photo by Chris Brown

Council Chair Eileen Quiring then wondered out loud if the business in question was Sticky’s, a pot shop that operated along Highway 99 in Hazel Dell for over a year in defiance of county code, before ultimately losing a legal battle at the State Supreme Court.

“I’m not aware of that, councilors,” responded Oliver Ojiako, community planning director. “I don’t think it’s Sticky’s.”

Staff did note that the initial estimate of 239 available locations, based on the 1,000 foot buffer, is only an estimate. Any business applying for a permit would need to verify that their intended location doesn’t fall within any restricted areas.

The council will take up the code changes at its meeting at 6 p.m. on July 2.

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About The Author

Chris Brown comes to Clark County Today with 15 years of local news experience as a reporter, editor, and anchor at KXL News Radio and KOIN-6 TV in Portland. In 2016, he won an Oregon Association of Broadcaster's award for Best Investigative Reporting for a series on America's Violent Youth. He has also been awarded by the Associated Press for Best Breaking News coverage as editor of Portland's Morning News following the 2015 school shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. The second oldest of eight home-schooled children, Brown graduated from high school two years early. After several odd jobs, he earned an internship at KXL Radio, eventually working his way into a full-time job. Brown has lived in Clark County his entire life, and is very excited at the opportunity to now focus full-time on the significant stories happening in his own back yard, rather than across “the river.’’ After a few years in Vancouver, he recently moved back to Battle Ground with his wife and two young daughters. When he's not working to report what's happening in Clark County, Brown enjoys spending time with his family, playing music, taking pictures, or working in the yard. He also actually does enjoy long walks on the beach, and sunsets.

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