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Kent's Land Use Board to further study marijuana zoning laws

The city of Kent's Land Use and Planning Board wants to take its time to figure out how to zone recreational marijuana businesses or whether to allow them at all.

"This is all new ground," said Jack Ottini, board chairman, at a Monday workshop as he scanned a long list of counties and cities that ban the businesses. "I don't like to be the guy that's leading the pack through the wall. I kind of want to sit back and go as slow as we can.

"I'm not going to say I'm against it but I want to go slow. If someone tells me we've got to get it done now, I'm going to say no, I don't think we have to. There's too many questions that haven't been answered."

Kent has a six-month ban against marijuana businesses that expires Nov. 27. City officials are studying whether to zone the producers, processors and sellers of the drug.

The state Liquor Control Board plans to issue licenses for the first retail stores to open in July. Up to three retail stores would be allowed in Kent under state rules, but the city's ban would keep the stores away. The state hasn't set any limit on the number of processors or producers.

David Galazin, assistant city attorney, told the board the moratorium gives it a chance to study the issue without making any rash decisions. He said the board could decide to zone the three uses piece by piece and possibly allow in producers and processors before retailers.

"To the extent we want to ease into it, kind of dip our toe in one bit at a time at the wading end of the pool rather than dive into the deep end, I think that's an absolutely sensible choice," Galazin said.

The board is tentatively scheduled to hold a second workshop on June 9 with a possible public hearing on June 23, said Fred Satterstrom, city planning director. The board, a seven-member body appointed by the council, eventually will make a recommendation to the council about where to zone marijuana businesses or whether to allow them.

Voters statewide approved Initiative 502 in 2012 to legalize the use of recreational marijuana and to set up businesses for producing, processing and selling it.

City staff presented the board with several options about how to zone for marijuana businesses. The Liquor Control Board may not issue a license for any marijuana business within 1,000 feet of schools, child care centers or other areas that attract primarily attract anyone ages 21 or younger who cannot legally use marijuana.

That state rule eliminates most of downtown, a lot of the East Hill and parts of the West Hill, said city planner Katie Graves. The city can establish additional zoning limits based on the type of business as well as impacts from odors as well as safety and crime issues.

"Neither I-502 nor the rules adopted by the Liquor Control Board address the proper location within a city for state licensed production, processing or retail sale facilities so that's where local jurisdiction comes in to determine where in our city are these uses appropriate if at all," said Graves, who added the marijuana businesses can be zoned separately if desired.

City staff suggested production facilities to be allowed in only heavy industrial zones or in zones for where similar uses exist such as the production and manufacturing of pharmaceutical drugs. Staff suggested similar options for marijuana processing businesses.

As far as marijuana retail stores, the board could allow them only in the industrial and commercial zoning districts, which covers many areas near the West Valley Highway on the north end of town. Staff suggested the board also could allow stores in similar zones such as where liquor stores exist.

Board member Katherine Jones said she would like more information about how cities and counties in Colorado have handled zoning for marijuana businesses. Colorado voters also approved recreational marijuana businesses and the state allowed sales earlier this year. She has concerns about odor.

"We have a Starbucks processing plant and you drive down there you can tell it's coffee," Jones said.

Galazin said with conversations he's had with the Denver city attorney's office, odor has been one of the biggest complaints. He said proper ventilation requirements can be part of the zoning and the city might need to take more steps than what the state requires.

Board members said they appreciated the staff's breakdown of marijuana zoning, but they definitely want to learn more before making any decisions.

"There's really not a lot out there," board member Alan Gray said. "We're working in uncharted territory."

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