Planning commission moves pot zoning code to city council

Puyallup: Members wary of buffers but want to treat marijuana businesses as retail

of the HeraldFebruary 5, 2014 

The Puyallup Planning Commission unanimously recommended proposed zoning code amendments last month for recreational marijuana-related businesses.

The 7-0 vote, which was held Wednesday, moved the zone requirements to the Puyallup City Council for consideration.

Commissioners approved Option A, which restricts marijuana-related businesses, such as a retailer, producer or processor, from locating on parcels that abut residentially zoned parcels.

An Option B included provisions that would have restricted marijuana-related businesses from locating on parcels that abut residentially zoned or residentially used parcels, regardless of zoning.

City staff members recommended the first option because they said it would be easier for applicants to navigate.

“We don’t think Option B is a good approach,” said Steve Kirkelie, deputy city attorney. “From a practical standpoint, it’s pretty tough. It didn’t sit well with us and was not a good practice.”

The commission began to consider the amendment in December and reviewed a draft of the code on Jan. 8. It held a public hearing last Wednesday before it voted to move Option A forward.

“We looked at other jurisdictions and what other jurisdictions have done,” Kirkelie said. “We have decided to treat (a marijuana business) like a retail establishment. Where we have deviated from state law is the residential buffer.”

If the city council passes the recommendation, then zoned parcels that would allow for marijuana-related businesses would be the commercial zones — central business district, central business district core, community business, general commercial zone — and mixed-use zones: River Road and Shaw Pioneer.

Proposed zoning for producers and processors would permit uses in light manufacturing and the agricultural, recreation and open space zones. A processor would be permitted in the agricultural zone if it’s licensed as both a producer and processor.

Under state law, marijuana-related businesses would have to have a distance of 1,000 feet between the business parcel and any schools, playgrounds, recreation facility, child care center, public park but not trails, public transit center, library or arcades.

Planning commission Chair Steve Hastings questioned whether a tutoring service business in a strip mall would have protection, or if the 1,000-foot buffer would apply to that scenario.

“It’s important that we recognize those businesses that serve those younger-age populations,” he said.

Hastings talked about Wiggleworks, considered an indoor playground at the South Hill Mall. Tom Utterback, the city’s development services director, said Wiggleworks is classified as a commercial/retail business. The city doesn’t treat it as a day care because there is no educational aspect, he said.

Planning Commission member Curt Gimmestad suggested the code should recognize open spaces not regularly zoned as public parks. For instance, the Riverwalk Trail would not be considered a park and, therefore, the 1,000-foot buffer would not apply.

Hastings said Puyallup has a good reputation to uphold, and he said marijuana businesses could tarnish that image.

“As a commission member, I want to protect the good reputation of our city,” he said.

Kirkelie cautioned commission members about the risk with expanding buffer zones.

“The greater you expand the buffer, there is more risk in someone saying that we’re deviating from state law,” he said.

Kirkelie said Feb. 25 would be the earliest the Puyallup City Council would review the zoning code amendments.

Reporter Andrew Fickes can be reached at 253-552-7001 or by email at andrew.fickes@puyallupherald.com. Follow him on Twitter, @herald_andrew.

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